Local Soccer Events

The Beautiful Game Provided an Evening of Fun Soccer Until Pitch Invaders and Rain Halted the Proceedings

A fun night celebrating the game we all love was cut short by an overwhelming number of pitch invaders and a torrential downpour in the second half.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

“The Beautiful Game” came to Orlando tonight as soccer legends and an assortment of other celebrities participated in an exhibition match at Exploria Stadium. The teams were captained by legendary Brazilians Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos and included notable current and former players such as former Orlando City captain Nani, Real Madrid star Vini Jr., and AS Roma winger Paulo Dybala.

It was a fun and entertaining soccer exhibition until persistent pitch invaders and a massive downpour dampened the proceedings. The match was abandoned just past the hour mark.

That the result wasn’t important to anyone was obvious from the start, but flair, entertaining the crowd, and showing off technique were. This was rarely more apparent than whenever Nani had the ball, showing off his fantastic footwork and going out of his way not to shoot, with the exception of a free kick from about 25 yards out that he sent just wide of the left post in the first half.

“It was amazing,” the former Orlando City captain said about his return to Exploria Stadium. “It’s always good to go back home. I was feeling great. A little bit emotional to be here at this club, because it’s a club where I had so many beautiful moments. I heard my name in the stands, so that was a really exciting moment for me. I enjoyed a lot. It’s always special to be back home.”

The match opened with some good chances for Team Ronaldinho (Team R10) with Cafu hitting the crossbar before Ronaldinho sent a shot just wide in the third minute. Vini Jr. attempted a bicycle kick in the sixth minute but René Higuita was there to make the save. Jay-Jay Okocha opened the scoring in the 10th minute with some slick moves to beat both the “defense” and Higuita, putting Team R10 up, 1-0.

Five minutes later, Rivaldo tied things up for Team Roberto Carlos (Team RC3) with a shot from distance, beating Team R10 goalkeeper Dida.

Patrick Kluivert made it 2-1 for Team R10 in the 25th minute, scoring after taking a nice pass from Vini Jr. and beating Higuita.

Nani’s free kick went just wide in the 28th minute and seconds later Team R10 extended its lead when Cafu drew Higuita off his line and chipped him to make it 3-1.

Four minutes later, it was Nani sending a beautiful through ball to Willian, who crossed in front for former Tottenham man Lucas Moura to finish into an open net. Team RC3 pulled within 3-2.

The final goal of the half came from Vini Jr. in the 36th minute as he chipped Mateus, who had replaced Higuita in goal.

Each team hit the woodwork and that was about it for the first half, but both sides showed flashes of brilliance in their passing and dribbling. Team R10 took a 4-2 lead into the break over Team RC3.

Vini Jr. scored in the 48th minute but this time he was wearing a different uniform. The Real Madrid star came out as a Team RC3 player and brought his team within a goal at 4-3 just after the restart.

The game went back and forth for the next 10 minutes or so, and then some of the star players began subbing out. Nani came off after 55 minutes without a goal but with a nice secondary assist and several highlight moments of skill.

“The name of the game is The Beautiful Game, so you need to do beautiful things,” he said. “And just the special players who’ve got the skills who can do it, so I had to put some performance on the field. The fans here, some of them know me very well from the time I was here, so I had to perform. I had to show something to make them excited to remember the good times (when) I was here, so that’s what it’s all about.”

The skies opened up with a torrential downpour shortly after Nani departed. Then kids started raining out of the stands and onto the field.

Pitch invaders had been an issue throughout the match, with about half a dozen isolated incidents that started before the match. When the rain started coming down, dozens of selfie- and autograph-seeking children and young adults started running onto the pitch to try to get their photo with a player or get a shirt signed.

The security team on duty was overwhelmed by the number of people coming out of the stands, and the players and referees ran down the tunnel. The game was abandoned “due to the weather” but it was likely a combination of the downpour and the lack of crowd control. About 15 minutes after the game was abandoned, the weather had cleared.

This match should serve as a warning to MLS about what to expect when Lionel Messi arrives and starts playing in the United States. Fans who have rarely had the chance to be so close to their idol — the Argentina talisman, who has a bigger worldwide following than anyone on tonight’s rosters and possibly more than both rosters combined.

This kind of pitch invasion is likely to happen when Messi plays in MLS — possibly every week — if the league and its clubs aren’t ready.

The Beautiful Game was enjoyable while it lasted, but it was marred by unchecked fanaticism, and that is both disappointing and frightening. Hopefully all involved in putting on this match have learned from the experience so that the good part remains and the bad part can be eliminated.

And hopefully MLS takes a good look at the video to prepare for Messi.


Exit mobile version