Despite Eden and Derby, ex-stars look to shine

HT Correspondent

Kolkata, Dec. 7 -- Famous for "Scorpion kicks", Colombian goalie Jose Rene Higuita is already here. By the time you read this, the giants of Brazil will be too. A group of select footballers who have held and kissed the shiny golden statuette with a bald crown that the Fifa World Cup trophy is. Led by Dunga, who till it spectacularly imploded in the South African coastal city of Port Elizabeth was in charge of ending Brazil's wait for a sixth World Cup, they will play here on Saturday afternoon.

If the organisers keep their word, the former midfielder and Brazil skipper will have his 1994 World Cup winning teammate Bebeto for company. And Robero Carlos, Juninho, Mauro Silva, Aldair among others.

Their opponents: an 11 culled from retired Indian footballers, former Mohun Bagan icon Brazilian Jose Barreto and Higuita.

Sandwiched between a Test at Eden and an I-League contest between traditional rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, the 90-minute match will continue Kolkata's tryst with World Cup winners.

One that began in 1977 with Pele and after a long lull has become a regular feature since West German legend Gerd Mueller first came in 2005.

Diego Maradona drove into the Salt Lake stadium and climbed on the car roof four Decembers ago.

Between then and now Bebeto's partner in goal-scoring Romario,German stars Lothar Matthaeus, Paul Brietner and Uli Hoeness, members of the 1974 World Cup winning team, have come calling.

Breitner was part of a Bayern Munich veterans' team that thrashed East Bengal's former stars 10-1 in 2010.

Not many watched that game, possibly because the idea of a past masters 11 isn't quite Kolkata's idea of the real deal in these times of satellite television beaming a daily dose of international football. And also perhaps because India has become a port of call for current teams and stars such as Bayern Munich, Lionel Messi and Didier Drogba.

Will Saturday be different? Watch this space.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.