Gianni Infantino referees FIFA legends game with World Cup workers in Qatar

FIFA president Gianni Infantino made a brief cameo as a referee during a friendly game between some football legends and workers from Qatar’s World Cup yesterday.

24 staff who had helped with the building and organising of the gulf nation’s tournament received the chance to play alongside some icons of the game.

A number of different stars featured in the match, including 2006 World Cup winners Alessandro Del Piero and Marco Materazzi. In addition, 2002 champions Roberto Carlos and Cafu made an appearance.

But there were not just previous winners there. The lucky workers also took to the pitch with John Terry, Clarence Seedorf, and Michel Salgado. Former Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi featured in the game as one of the FIFA legends, too.

The match had the SC Secretary General and Qatar’s Minister of Labour in the crowd. According to FIFA, this: “presented further opportunity to showcase the strong, ongoing and joint commitment in relation to workers’ welfare that remains in place beyond the final whistle of the tournament.”

During the game, the football governing body’s president took on the role of refereeing briefly. And, never one to shy away from headlines, Infantino actually dished out a yellow card. Del Piero was the unfortunate recipient, but the Juventus icon accepted it in good spirits.

The Bridge reports that “Team Yellow”, whom Roberto Carlos managed, took a 2-0 victory in the friendly. Sadly, though, no workers got on the scoresheet. Instead, Del Piero and Portugal legend Nuno Gomes provided the goals.

The game itself was also a warm-up to a new FIFA event.

Gianni Infantino praises FIFA Legends Cup

The FIFA Legends Cup is a tournament featuring retired stars of football in small-sided games. The matches will take place on 15 and 16 December – after the World Cup semi-finals.

In the two-day tournament, eight teams will battle it out in six-a-side matches to come out on top. Each team will have 12 players – eight male, two keepers, and two female.

The top two from a pair of groups will advance to the semis, then a final to crown the winner. Meanwhile, spots eighth through to fifth will also play games to determine the final rankings.

As well as players from the aforementioned friendly, numerous other former stars will take part. These include Hristo Stoichkov, Kaka, Didier Drogba, and Iker Casillas.

Whilst arguably more a publicity stunt than actual competition, Gianni Infantino feels the FIFA Legends Cup will be a positive occasion. In particular, it may help further raise the profile of football in the Middle East.  

“Football is about joy, about smiles, about fun,” said Infantino, via FIFA.com. “We are here with incredible legends, world champions, and players who have written football’s history.

“The FIFA legends have made us fall in love hundreds and hundreds of times with the game. These footballers who are here, are not ex-football players. They go from the status of a football player to the status of legend.”

If you are interested in watching the tournament, all matches will be on the FIFA+ streaming service.

Featured image credit: Getty