DUBAI, 8 January 2022 – Former Arsenal and France footballer Bacary Sagna led his team to victory at the first-ever UAE All-Stars Tournament, held at the Expo Sports Arena, Expo 2020 Dubai, on Saturday (8 January), in a thrilling afternoon that saw football legends, up-and-coming talent, female players and celebrities take to the pitch.
Sagna was one of four former footballing stars, along with Patrice Evra, formerly of Manchester United and France; Míchel Salgado, former Real Madrid and Spain footballer; and Samir Nasri, a former Arsenal and France player, tasked with assembling a 15-person squad for the exhibition tournament, which showcased football’s power to inspire and unite people from diverse backgrounds.
With seven-a-side games lasting 15 minutes each, the teams progressed through six group matches to the semi-finals and final, which saw Team Bac, led by Sagna, face off against Evra’s Team Patman. That match ended in a 2-2 draw at full-time, with Team Bac eventually winning 3-2 after a nail-biting, sudden-death penalty shoot-out.
Speaking after the final, former Manchester United and France player Louis Saha, who was playing for Team Bac, said: “It was great to see the emotion again amongst the fans, after everything we have all been through with COVID. The emotion we can see and share with them is great. I love that.”
Former Real Madrid, Barcelona and Portugal player Luis Figo, who scored the first two goals of the tournament for Team Salgado, said: “It’s always good to be back in Dubai, and to be part of the event… to promote Expo, to promote football… and I think today is particularly good for inspiring the younger generations, to see other young players getting involved, and to give them that reference.”
Also on Team Salgado were former Inter Milan and Italy player Marco Materazzi, Emirati footballer Areej Al Hammadi and Egyptian singer Mohammed Ramadan, who said: “I’m very proud to be here with such great football stars – they have entertained us for many years. And it doesn’t matter who wins. The most important thing is that it’s a beautiful, charitable event that shows people of different backgrounds coming together. It also shows that sport is important, and it helps with work, focus and energy.”
Former Tottenham and Ireland forward Robbie Keane showed off his striking talent, scoring six goals for Team Patman, while team-mate – and celebrity Turkish chef – CZN Burak, who has a restaurant in Dubai, was more than happy to lend his footballing skills: “I’m very happy to be here at Expo, which is a very important global event, and I’m happy to be here with all the stars and celebrities in this match. Dubai is my second home, and I love this country so much. I got very excited about taking part in this event. I hope there will be more.”
Other players included Sheikh Rashid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the UAE Football Association and Wales rugby player Mike Phillips, both on Team Bac, while Team Nasri featured His Excellency Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Managing Director and Group CEO of Mubadala Investment Company and Chairman of Manchester City Football Club and UAE national women’s player Nouf Al Anzi.
After the final, His Excellency Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council, and His Excellency Mohammed Hazam Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of the Emirates Football Association, distributed medals to the first- and second-place winners, and handed a trophy to the winning team.