South Florida soccer fans can’t be in Ukraine and Poland for Euro 2012, but they can see some of the world’s most famous international stars close to home Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, 2010 World Cup MVP Diego Forlan, and Chelsea standout Didier Drogba are among the 30 players committed to play in the World Soccer Masters tour. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., and the coaches are Dunga and Fabio Capello.
Other players include: U.S. national team members Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and Boca Raton native Jozy Altidore; Diego Milito (Argentina, Inter Milan), Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona), Lucio (Brazil, Inter), Alessandro Nesta (Italy), Falcao (Colombia, Atletico Madrid), Javier Mascherano (Argentina, Barca), Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Ariel Ortega (Argentina), Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico), and Julio Cesar (Brazil, Inter).
A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to Messi’s charitable organization.
The tour promoters announced the lineups, and fans surely will be delighted.
Masters Team starters: Jose Manuel Pinto, Andres Santos, Nesta, Diego Lugano, Martin Demichelis, Mascherano, Messi, Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Milito, Drogba. Reserves: Alves, Gerardo Torrado, Jhon Viafara, Ortega, Jose Rondon. Coach: Dunga
Stars Team starters: Luis Suarez, Forlan, Falcao, Walter Gargano, Dempsey, Edison Cavani, Bocanegra, Marco Materazzi, Lucio, Cannavaro, Memo Ochoa. Reserves: James Rodriguez, Antonio Cassano, Pablo Osvaldo, Altidore.
Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster and at the stadium box office.
Next month, Sun Life Stadium will host a Chelsea-AC Milan match July 28. The game is the final leg of a four-game tour for Chelsea, which is coming off a dramatic Champions League victory over Bayern Munich. Both matches are expected to draw big crowds. Last summer, FC Barcelona’s match against Chivas Guadalajara drew 70,080 fans; and in February, 51,615 saw Colombia play Mexico.
• Racism at Euro: Even before the Euro 2012 opening match Friday, the tournament faced its first controversy. Black players on the Dutch team were subjected to monkey chants during a training session in Krakow, Poland.
Several hundred people of a crowd of 25,000 directed monkey noises at players Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Wiel during the Dutch practice session at the Stadion Miejski.
The players moved their session to the other side of the stadium.
“It is a real disgrace, especially after getting back from Auschwitz [the Dutch squad visited the concentration camp on Wednesday] that you are confronted with this,” team captain Mark Van Bommel said. “We will take it up with UEFA, and if it happens at a match, we will talk to the referee and ask him to take us off the field.”
The Dutch were among several teams that visited Auschwitz in the days leading up to the tournament. Others who toured the concentration camps were England, Germany and Italy. Players heard from Holocaust survivors and toured the crematoriums where Jews and other prisoners were killed.
• Euro 2012 video game: Fans of Euro 2012 can play along in an interactive game and meet other fans through a Football Connect application launched by Palm Beach Gardens-based One Up Games. Visit www.1up.me.
• Strikers on road: The Fort Lauderdale Strikers (3-3-4) are on the road Sunday against Edmonton FC (2-5-2). If the Strikers win, they move into a tie for third place in the NASL with San Antonio.
Fort Lauderdale will be without forward Mark Anderson, who cannot travel because of visa issues. Anderson has scored a goal in each of the past five league games and six of the past seven games in all competitions for the Strikers.
The team also announced a special Father’s Day weekend deal, offering a free ticket to all fathers with the purchase of any ticket for their match at 7:30 p.m. June 16 against FC Edmonton at Lockhart Stadium. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Strikers’ ticket office at (954) 606-0400 or by going to www.strikers.com by Friday and using the promo code: SOCCERDAD.
• Local teens advance: Seven South Florida youth teams advanced to the 2012 U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Championship, June 15-21 in Greenville, S.C. The traveling teams include Pinecrest Premier U13 and U14 Boys; West Pines U15, U16, U17 Boys, (Miami) Real Madrid U15 Boys; and the Sunrise Sting U13 Girls.