Robert Pires and Christian Vieri impress fans at Arsenal and Milan legends match
- Credit: Debbie White
There were one million good reasons to see football legends such as Robert Pires, David Seaman, Paolo Maldini and Cafu today (Saturday).
As a result of a nostalgic “legends match” at Emirates Stadium, boasting an impressive lineup of stars from yesteryear provided by hosts Arsenal, and boosted by visiting Milan Glorie, £1 million was raised to fund local and international pitches for young people.
In a first for the Gunners, a 90-minute exhibition match, won by the home team 4-2, was organised to raise money for The Arsenal Foundation, with the game attended by about 59,000 enthusiastic fans.
The Herts Advertiser was told that the Arsenal Legends were to have trained at the Gunners’ grounds in London Colney, but there were logistical problems with getting them altogether, which meant today’s game was the first time the former Gunners had met on the pitch.
Among the scores of fans attending was Paul Broughton, a chef from Bath, who took little prompting when asked why he was attending the exhibition match: “It’s the legends!”
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The 51 year old said it was the perfect opportunity to give the younger generations a chance to see some of the greats, as well as allow him to reflect upon some of the stars he enjoyed watching during his own youth.
Paul added: “I have been a Gunners fan all my life – 1984-1996 were great years for Arsenal fans, but it is very difficult to get a ticket and come and watch games now.”
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Season ticket holder Steve Brooker, of Brighton, added: “It’ll be a different atmosphere – I don’t think there will be any shouts or groans at Wenger!”
Asked to name their favourite legends playing at the Emirates, Paul and Steve immediately named Robert Pires, Kanu, “all of them really; anyone who has worn a shirt is a legend, but Pires without a shadow of a doubt”.
Paul said the fact he had watched such players in their prime were moments that would stay with him forever: “You have seen them, cheered for them and you can’t replace that moment.”
Diehard fans in the stands included Andy Kent and his son Chris, who started travelling “by bus, ferry, train and the underground” at 7.30am to arrive in time for the game.
Andy said: “There are loads of us who came up from the Isle of Wight – it’s not unusual for me to arrive back home at 4am when Arsenal are playing away.”
Like fellow fan Paul, Andy was all for showing the younger generations legends of the sport.
During the match there was enthusiastic applause every time the ball narrowly missed its target – which happened fairly regularly.
But Kanu brought fans - and a happy looking Arsene Wenger - to their feet with his goal in the 26th minute.
In the 38th minute Milan Glorie’s Christian Vieri had levelled, leaving goalie David Seaman smiling and shaking his gloved hands at sympathetic fans seated behind the goal.
Kanu scored a second goal to thunderous applause in the 70th minute, perhaps buoyed by the appearance of Martin Keown.
During play fans kept themselves amused with plenty of selfies, a couple of Mexican waves and of course loads of chanting.
There was a lot of light-heartedness on the pitch too, with the legends in their element and clearly relishing the chance to shine in front of a large stadium yet again.
Kanu scored a third time just before the 80th minute, with Robert Pires scoring Arsenal Legends’ fourth goal just four minutes later, to the delight of fans.
Christian Vieri scored Milan’s second goal in the 89th minute, prompting fans to boo, and then clap for his success.
The one legend missing was Thierry Henry, who was to have played, but said: “Sadly I will be unable to play in the Arsenal legends game due to my new commitments with the Belgium national team.
“I was looking forward to being reunited with the Arsenal fans, old friends and of course helping raise money for a worthwhile cause.”
Liam Brady admitted he could not join in because he was “too old, unfit and heavy”.
At the end of the day, the match was a huge success for the club, fans and of course the legends themselves, the combination of which - along with everyone’s good will - will now result in football pitches being built in London, Jordan and Somalia.
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said: “It’s important that football and clubs like Arsenal use the global passion for the game to make a difference.”
The Arsenal Foundation will build five football pitches in Jordan and two in Somalia in partnership with Save the Children.