STAR SIXES TOURNAMENT – view from the press

STAR SIXES TOURNAMENT – view from the press

When the Star Sixes Tournament was first announced this writer made efforts immediately to get accreditation. The quality of ex-internationals who had signed up to represent their countries made it a must attend football event of the summer.

An email was fired off to the organisers after a visit to their very informative website. They did reply back saying that “accreditation has not opened yet for the tournament, but be assured that when it does open we will get in touch and let you know how to apply”. I thought that might be one of the best brush offs ever! Two weeks to the start an email did arrive with links on how to apply for accreditation and I quickly complied and sent it off – crossing everything I had!

I did get the accreditation and I was able to attend the entire 4 days of a truly well organised tournament.

ORGANISATION: the press working room where the accredited journalists used to work and file away reports and in which very good meals and hot drinks were available for the duration was of the highest standards. The organisers did exceptionally well here.

The schedule for matches were kept to time – strictly too. This is very important especially with regards to fans getting away at the end of each night’s event because of public transport. The O2 Arena as a venue was almost spot on with generous but expensive parking spaces and direct access to the Tube on the Jubilee Line. The events of Friday and Saturday could have run on as long as they wanted because of the 24 hour Tube running for both nights.

THE MATCHES: for most of the countries that attended this was a proper tournament. It was easy to see why some of these guys had been professional footballers – they were determined to win and they were not shirking anything. During the England Vs Spain match, Phil Neville was a victim of a quite nasty assault by Carlos Puyol. The Spain captain and Eric Abidal of France were the standout competitors for me in the way they went at every ball.

Spain, Brazil, France and Denmark, I observed, looked the fittest sides after the first round of matches. The team of Nigeria led by Austin JJ Okocha looked quite unprepared for the tournament really. One of the organisers actually said “one of the Nigerian players said to us that they did not expect the tournament to be this competitive”. It showed. By the time Nigeria was being thumped 8-1 in the quarter-finals by Spain they could barely field a strong side and had no bench to speak of.

The likes of Celestine Babayaro, Julius Aghahowa, Garba Lawal and 4 goal man Yakubu Aiyegbeni looked the fittest of the lot. The 3-2 win over China was as good as it got.

Brazil of course were the neutrals favourites and they did have a pretty strong side out. Rivaldo, Elano, Juninho, Amaral and the extravagantly gifted Djalminha were all there. The crowd at the O2 wanted so much to see Roberto Carlos play. The former Real Madrid left back humoured them a lot by coming on every last 30 seconds to thunderous applause.

Spain’s defeat to France in the semis was a major surprise. Later, Denmark caused a bigger surprise by knocking Brazil out thereby setting up a final with France. It was a proper final reflected by the 2-1 score line victory for France. It could also have been a function of the ages of the players and playing so many matches in such a short period.

Bruno Cheyrou of victorious France “appearances can be deceptive, I am not as fit as I look but I am happy we won. It was great to see many of my former team mates and we were really determined to win”.

Spain’s Michel Salgado was the tournament’s top scorer with 9 goals while the MVP was Denmark’s Chris Sorenson was MVP.

All in all, it was a fantastic four days and the organisers must be very pleased with how it went. The thing they might have to look at again will be the ticket pricing. There were too many empty seats which denied the tournament the kind of atmosphere it would otherwise have generated.

For more on the tournament you can visit www.starsixes.com.

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