Former Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero has been invited to participate at the Italian legends game in Toronto in approximately two months.
Less than two months before the inaugural showcase event featuring an Italian Legends squad of former National Team and World Cup winners, an exciting potential addition to the squad was announced at a media gathering in Toronto. Italian Football Heroes has extended a special invitation to former Juventus and Azzurri striker Alex Del Piero, one of the most talented and most recognized Italian players, to participate in the game, which will take place at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum on March 5th.
The Italian squad, which also features former World Cup participants Dino Baggio, Salvatore (Toto’) Schillaci and World Cup winner Simone Perrotta, boasts more than 250 international appearances. The Italian Legends will face a Canadian All-Star Selection led by all-time caps leader and former National Team captain Paul Stalteri.
“Alex is a very active businessman,” explained Federico Fantini, the man behind the Italian Football Heroes concept. “He lives in Los Angeles now and it was recently announced he will be joining (former Canadian NBA star) Steve Nash in a new ownership venture with a club in Spain’s second division. Del Piero welcomed the invitation and will give his best effort to be with us not only on March 5th but for all the other activities planned.”
Del Piero played 19 seasons at Juventus and has represented Italy at three World Cups and four UEFA European Championships. At the end of his Serie A career, Del Piero left Italy to play in Australia for two seasons. While he hasn’t yet officially retired, Del Piero is entertaining a number of business opportunities in the game, including a role as managing director of Real Mallorca.
Italian Football Heroes is a new entertainment concept that will combine a 7-aside soccer match with live music, player interviews and interactive games with the fans. The match will be played on an indoor turf field and will consist of three 20-minute periods with on-the-fly substitutions similar to hockey. Popular Italian music and TV personality “Pupo” will be master of ceremonies and perform during the event.
”Our goal, our ambition,” Fantini said, “is to create a concept that will be replicated not only in Toronto but that can also be exported to other major cities across Canada and around the world. Montreal, Vancouver, South Africa and Australia have all expressed interest. I’ve even recently been contacted by officials in Costa Rica.”
While the match is the focal point of the Italian Football Heroes initiative, there are many more activities scheduled around the legends game including player appearances, a hospitality village and a gala dinner, all with the aim of embracing not only Toronto’s significant Italian community, but the wider soccer community in general.
“We want these players to be involved with the community at various events because they are people who have had an involvement in our lives,” Fantini added.
Former World Cup Golden Boot and Golden Ball winner Schillaci will return to the Toronto area for the fourth time. He always enjoys meeting the community but says lacing up the boots still gives him a thrill.
“While this event may be an exhibition, the competitive spirit is always in the blood,” Schillaci said. “We always go on the field to win. Of course, we’re all getting on in age. I just turned 51 so we may be a step slower but we still have a will to win.”
One of the event’s founding partners is the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario, which will provide marketing and logistical support in Toronto.
“We’re looking for an event that will create an environment where we leave a legacy here,” said George Visintin, president of the ICCO. “I think this is one of those events that is important not only to those of us of an advanced age but to future generations as well.”
Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Bob Iarusci, a former Canadian National Team player himself, will coach the Canadian All-Stars and expects that fans will be thoroughly entertained.
“We’re going to present a product that evening that I think will allow people to say they were happy they came,” Iarusci said. “That’s the spirit of the event and it’s important we communicate that to everybody.”
Former World Cup star Paolo Rossi is an Italian Football Heroes ambassador and he will return to Toronto for the event along with former Juventus and Toronto Blizzard star Roberto Bettega.
Portions of the proceeds from the Italian Football Heroes match will benefit the Toronto Azzurri Youth Sports Village, a non-profit organization that offers sports and other programs to underprivileged and at-risk youth in Toronto.
Tickets for the event are available in Southern Ontario through Ticketmaster. More details can be found at the event’s official website, italianfootballheroes.com.