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Bobby Charlton’s team in the very first Laureus Football Challenge

Give some of the greatest names in football free run of a perfect pitch, perfect weather, and a grandstand packed with appreciative supporters, and the end result is bound to be a glorious demonstration of all that is good in the game. And that is exactly what happened when the Emirates Palace hosted the very […]

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Give some of the greatest names in football free run of a perfect pitch, perfect weather, and a grandstand packed with appreciative supporters, and the end result is bound to be a glorious demonstration of all that is good in the game.
And that is exactly what happened when the Emirates Palace hosted the very first Laureus Football Challenge, presented by IWC Schaffhausen, played between an Emirates team managed by Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton and a Laureus Foundation team led by Bora Milutinovic, one of only two men to have coached five different teams in the World Cup.

It was seven-a-side, which meant the pace was fast and furious. And at first it was too fast for Charlton’s team who quickly went 4-0 down, but in a great comeback the Emirates managed to force a draw 11-11 at full-time. There was a trophy at stake so it was ruled that the first team to score a ‘golden goal’ would decide the outcome, and Fernando Couto of Portugal made up for earlier putting through his own net by netting the winner in extra time.

The trophy was presented to Emirates captain Edgar Davids by Fabio Cannavaro, who led Italy to victory in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Edwin Moses, chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, received a cheque for a total of E500,000 (EUROS) from Georges Kern, chief executive officer of IWC Schaffhausen, and a cheque for 2 million dirham was presented to Mohanna Al Muhairi, director of information and administration with the Emirates Foundation.

The funds raised came from the proceeds of the 2011 Laureus World Sports Awards, which are being staged with the generous support of the Global Partners – Mercedes-Benz, IWC Schaffhausen and Vodafone – and Host Partner Aabar, who have been instrumental in bringing the Laureus Awards Ceremony to Abu Dhabi.

The donations included funds that were raised from the magnificent efforts of the footballers who earned money as they scored goals and made assists.

While his team celebrated their famous victory, Charlton said: “I think this has been a fantastic day. It was just magic. These footballers have travelled from thousands of miles to be here to help us, and they were delighted to be asked to be part of it.

“Footballers are sometimes much maligned. They’re accused of being greedy and self-satisfied. But it’s not always the case. There are so many of them who are just so happy to be able to do whatever they can to help us.”

Patrick Vieira of Manchester City, owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, flew from England straight after helping his club beat West Bromwich Albion 3-0 in the English Premier League on Saturday. The French World Cup winner turned out for Bora’s Laureus team (Franz Beckenbauer had to make a late withdrawal from the coach’s bench) and said: “I’ve so enjoyed it. There were so many legendary football players here, many of them World Cup winners who helped me love the game when I was young.

“I enjoyed playing alongside my good friend Gianfranco Zola, and in the past I’ve played against Edgar Davids and it’s always nice to see him again. The whole day has been fantastic.”

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