Football legends in Manila: Fabio Cannavaro and Dennis Wise

Miji Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - August 24, 2013 - 12:00am

Tonight at 7 p.m., the University of Makati pitch will be brimming with excitement as World Cup champion Fabio Cannavaro and football legend Dennis Wise join James Younghusband, Phil Younghusband, and the country’s top football talents for the Clear Dream Match.

Now, our nation was starstruck when another legend, David Beckham, paid a visit back in 2011. The appearance was marked by fainting spells, giggles from the ladies, and, yes, silent shrieks from the men. Who would’ve thought that that visit could be topped by the arrival of two more legends of the ball?

Legend 1: Fabio Cannavaro. Born in Naples, Italy (the home of pizza!), Cannavaro will forever be remembered for being Italy’s captain in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where the Azzurri won their fourth World Cup title. Next to olive oil, Fabio is perhaps a household name in Italy. In the same year, Cannavaro, “the Berlin Wall,” was named FIFA World Player of the Year ahead of Zinédine Zidane. A heartthrob and a football icon, Cannavaro’s achievements and remarkable playing career have made him one of the greatest defenders of his generation.

Legend 2: Dennis Wise. A recognized name in English football history, Wise is undoubtedly a Chelsea FC legend — with over 400 appearances! — known for being the club’s most successful captain before John Terry surpassed his record. During his 11-year spell, he was able to lift the FA Cup twice and was voted Chelsea Player of the Year twice.

Cannavaro joins Team James Younghusband, vowing to help gain revenge on younger brother Phil for his team’s win at last year’s Clear Dream Match “Last year’s match was one-sided, this year I want to help James even the score,” Cannavaro said.

Wise, meanwhile, selected Team Phil because of his desire to win. “Like Phil I love to win and I always love to score goals, and that’s the type of team I want to be associated with,” Wise said.

Supreme caught up with the two giants and talked to them about Filipinos, football, and following one’s dreams.

SUPREME: What have you heard about the Philippines before coming here?

FABIO CANNAVARO: Nice country, nice island, nice vacation, friendly people, good food, too many nice things.!

DENNIS WISE: To be honest, lots about the Philippines... Obviously, James and Phil, I’ve heard about them. Not too much about the football side of it. But I think what these two guys have done to develop football, help and promote it, is fantastic.

What was your first impression of the country?

FABIO: A lot of rain. (Laughs.) The time. But I hope and wish to come back next season maybe.

DENNIS: The people are lovely. They really are. Obviously, since I’ve come here it hasn’t stopped raining. It’s a bit like England, to be honest, so no different. But no, it’s a nice environment. I’m looking forward to training and enjoying the football side of it, which is good, and hopefully we get the result.

What is the secret to your success as football players?

FABIO: To be professional. (James Younghusband butts in: “Our favorite word,” he says.) It’s the key to success. If you want to be good players, you need to work and improve your body and performance to be a professional.

DENNIS: I think I have great desire. That was, I think, the main part. And I would go out and practice and practice and practice.

Who would be the toughest player you’ve ever faced in your entire football career?

FABIO: Ronaldo, the Brazilian player!

DENNIS: I think it was Patrick Vieira who was probably the toughest. Very powerful. Strong. Difficult to play against. We had some good tussles over the years, me and Patrick. But also off the field, he is a really nice guy.

What is the most touching or moving thing a fan has ever done to you?

FABIO: Too many, but it’s better not to tell. (Laughs.)

DENNIS: Wow. You got me there. I’ve never ever been asked that question before.

Let’s move on to Philippine football. What are your thoughts on the Philippine National Football Team, a.k.a. the Azkals?

JAMES YOUNGHUSBAND ANSWERS FOR FABIO: He’s not familiar, but he’s gonna watch them in the future.

DENNIS: Obviously, it needs to improve. A lot. These guys [Phil and James] are helping it as much as they can. I think the federation needs to help the situation because it needs to work from below. The grassroots needs to improve and that takes time.

What advice would you give to young people? I’m sure there are a lot of kids aspiring to be great footballers.

FABIO: To follow their dreams and to be happy with football. Because it’s magic. You can be professional players, but you need to enjoy football.

DENNIS: I think they need to practice and give themselves every opportunity to improve. And I think if they do that, and work hard at everything, and give it your best, and if you give your best, you give yourself every chance of succeeding.

* * *

The author works at football league Global FC and occasionally serves behind-the-scenes at the Philippine Azkals. Tweet him @mijigonzales.

Meet the Clear dream match teams

Phil Younghusband’s team is composed of Dennis Wise,  Carlie De Murga, Jeff Christiaens, Park Min Ho, OJ Porteria, Patrick Deyto, Chad Gould, Masonari Omura, Jinggoy Valmayor, Chris Greatwich, Byeong Yeol Jeong, Anton Del Rosario, Boyet Canedo, Sam YG, Nick O’Donnell, Armand Del Rosario, Mikko Mabanag, and Ronald Batisla-Ong.


James Younghusband’s team is composed of Fabio Cannavaro, Yves Ashime, Jason De Jong, Misagh Bahadoran, Saba Garmaroudi, Oussenyou Diop, Roxy Dorlas, Chieffy Caligdong, Tony Toni, Nicolas Bolzico, Jonah Romero, Ian Araneta, Simon Greatwich, Andrew Santiago, Daniel Matsunaga, Slick Rick, Fabio Ide, Ref Cuaresma, and Izzo El Habbib.

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