Old but still gold
England and Germany stars put on show for nostalgic fans
BATTLE OF EUROPE
ENGLAND MASTERS 4
(Darren Anderton 2, Teddy Sheringham 28, 54, Emile Heskey 56)
GERMANY MASTERS 2
(Fredi Bobic 31, 42)
It was a different era, with different players and in a different setting.
But the England Masters' 4-2 win over the Germany Masters at last night's Battle of Europe at the National Stadium evoked some comparisons, albeit light-hearted ones, of England's 1966 World Cup Final victory over West Germany by the same score.
With a chuckle, former Tottenham Hotspur winger Darren Anderton said after the match: "The boys are pretty pleased and are having a laugh about the score being 4-2 again. It was perfect."
But, in a separate post-match press conference, former Bolton Wanderers striker Fredi Bobic was in a jovial mood for some banter.
The 45-year-old said: "I wasn't born in 1966, sometimes Germans are laughing about it because it's 50 years ago, and now we know (Geoff Hurst's controversial 1966 World Cup Final goal) wasn't a goal after all... But after that, Germany have had a better record."
Given that most of the players were on the wrong side of 40, the pace of the 80-minute match was never going to be faster than a Sunday league match, even though it looked like one from the sidelines, with the substitutes and team officials sitting on ice boxes and, later, white plastic chairs.
Former Spurs winger Anderton put the English ahead within 90 seconds, with the 44-year-old connecting with a cross from Sheringham at the byeline with a header and deflected past German goalkeeper Perry Brautigam.
The English were in control for much of the first period, although the Germans made some headway with their attempted lobs over the English backline to find Alexander Zickler.
The former Bayern Munich midfielder, 42, even attempted a diving header from an acute angle in the 27th minute, which was saved by former Liverpool goalkeeper David James, and almost injured his shoulder in the process.
German legend Lothar Matthaeus joked: "He could have been the top scorer, and even better than (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi; (scoring) was always his problem."
It was arguably Germany Masters' best chance before Manchester United cult hero Sheringham doubled the England Masters' lead in the 28th minute.
Receiving the ball in the middle of the opponents' half, Anderton relayed it to Heskey at the edge of the box.
With his back to goal, the former Leicester and Liverpool striker produced a neat back-flip to find Sheringham, England's captain of the night, alone in the box.
Sheringham made no mistake from 10 metres out, leaving Brautigam with no chance with a powerful shot into the roof the net.
Anderton said: "That's what Teddy is all about, isn't it?
"He is still fit as a fiddle, and he's got so much quality."
Bobic reduced the deficit nine minutes before half-time and levelled terms for Germany Masters two minutes after the restart, slotting home from close range after Michael Thomas lost possession in his own box.
But any chance of a German revival was snuffed out in the 54th minute, when Sheringham bagged his second of the night by finishing off an unselfish lay-off by McManaman in the six-yard box.
Heskey then secured victory for the English side in the 56th minute, tapping home from point-blank range off Lee Hendrie's cross, although Jens Nowotny got the last touch.
Darius Vassell had the ball in the back of the net in added time, but was adjudged to be in an offside position.
Both sets of players said they enjoyed themselves and lauded the fans and the atmosphere last night.
Bobic said: "I was surprised by the speed (of tonight's game). I've played so many legends games and some were really boring. Everyone wanted to win."
Matthaeus added: "The game was wonderful, I hope we can play next year again. We are ready for a rematch, and I hope we will change the result."
GOING STRONG: Emile Heskey (in red) delights England fans with a goal. TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
ENGLAND MASTERS: David James, Michael Gray, Steve Howey, Des Walker, Luke Young, Carlton Palmer, Steve McManaman, Darren Anderton, Teddy Sheringham, Darius Vassell, Emile Heskey.
GERMANY MASTERS: Perry Brautigam, Marko Rehmer, Jens Nowotny, Guido Buchwald, Jorg Albertz, Mario Basler, Lothar Matthaeus, Oliver Neuville, Alexander Zickler, Dietmar Hamman, Carsten Ramelow.
WHAT THE FANS SAY
"I am here to watch the likes of Lothar Matthaeus, Mario Basler and Karl-Heinz Riedle, and I was quite impressed with what I saw. They may be old, but they still played really well."
- Germany fan Jan Dalheiuer, 44, charity executive
"As a Liverpool fan, I wanted to catch the likes of Steve McManaman and David James tonight and I must say that they are still quite good for their age. But I was most impressed with the German goalkeeper (Perry Brautigam). He pulled off quite a number of great saves."
- England fan Adil Kamis, 42, engineering executive
"I was hoping to catch Paul Scholes (withdrew due to illness) here today, but it was good to see the likes of Danny Murphy, Teddy Sheringham and Darren Anderton. The game was more competitive than I had imagined, and I was quite entertained."
- Richard Adam, 35, managing director of a software company
Fans mingle with former stars at Courts Megastore
JOY: Fans mingling with former stars like David James (second from left) and Teddy Sheringham (third from left) at the Courts Megastore. PHOTO: COURTESY OF COURTS
It is not every day that the likes of David James, Teddy Sheringham, Emile Heskey, Darren Anderton, Lee Hendrie, Carlton Palmer, Guido Buchwald, Michael Gray and Fredi Bobic would appear in the heartlands to take photos with fans and sign football memorabilia.
So it was no surprise when hundreds of fans lined up at the Courts Megastore in Tampines at noon yesterday to catch a glimpse of the stars.
The nine former England and Germany internationals made a special appearance for a meet-and-greet session with fans and lucky shoppers.
The players were in Singapore for the Battle of Europe at the National Stadium last night, won 4-2 by England.
The meet-and-greet opportunity was made possible by Courts, which sees football sponsorships as a good way to connect with Singaporeans who share a strong passion for the sport.
"Courts is proud to be able to bring a whole host of football legends to connect with fans and shoppers in our Megastore today," said Terry O'Connor, Group CEO of Courts Asia.
"We have always been committed to giving our shoppers the best experiences, and connecting via the shared passion of football is one of the best ways for us to give back to the local community." - DAVID LEE