By Alex Baker
(Los Angeles, CA) – Several of international soccer’s biggest stars gathered for a press conference in LA Tuesday to inaugurate the kickoff of the 2011 World Football Challenge. Former World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo was on hand along with his Real Madrid teammate Iker Casillas and Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho.
The trio were joined by David Beckham and Landon Donovan of the LA Galaxy along with Galaxy head coach, Bruce Arena. In the audience, among the assembled members of the media, also sat retired French football legend, Zinedine Zidane.
Ronaldo was asked about what Real Madrid’s upcoming match against the Galaxy meant to him.
“It will be amazing for us to play against Galaxy, “ said the Spanish Pichichi winner. “It’s a good game for us because we’re still in preseason so it’ll be great. Really exciting because I always like to play and if we play against good teams it’s better for us. It’ll be great Saturday and I hope of course to win.”
Jose Mourinho is spending his third summer in a row in LA, having been here last year with Real Madrid and the summer before with Inter Milan. The 2011 FIFA Coach of the Year was also upbeat about appearing in the tournament against the Galaxy.
“Los Angeles has become our home in terms of the preseason,” explained Mourinho. “In relation to the tournament, it’s exactly what we need. I don’t like preseason matches to win 10-nil. I don’t like preseason matches to have some fun, I like serious matches and (The Galaxy) always give us that.”
For Beckham, who spent four seasons with the Spanish giants, before joining MLS, Saturday’s match will represent the first time he has faced his former club.
“Of course I spent four amazing years at Real Madrid,” explained Beckham. “To go from a club like Manchester United to Real Madrid, it doesn’t really much better than that in football. I’ve got many friends still there, many friends as players and the fans and throughout the club as well. So to be facing Real Madrid for the first time since I left, it’s emotional.”
The veteran England midfielder was also full of praise for Mourinho.
“Of course Jose, you know to have been coached by some of the best managers in the world, he’s one of the best managers in the world so to have the chance to have been coached by him would be any player’s dream and of course my dream as well. ”
Landon Donovan held a typically pragmatic view of Saturday’s upcoming match.
“For us, as exciting as it is, our important games are league games or tomorrow’s Open Cup game or Champions League games later in the year,” said the Galaxy forward. “It’s a great opportunity. We’re not Real Madrid, we don’t play games like this every week so a lot of our guys will have an incredible experience and we wanna make the most of it. That doesn’t mean you go around kicking people but we play hard and we wanna put on a good show. There’s a lot of people that are paying hard earned money to come watch and we want to make sure that the game is played in the right spirit.”
World Football Challenge kicks off this Wednesday as the New England Revolution face Manchester United at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough Massachusetts. The Galaxy will play Real Madrid this Saturday the 16th before facing Manchester City the following weekend on July 24th.
The 2011 World Football Challenge also features other foreign sides Juventus, CD Guadalajara, Club America and FC Barcelona facing off against MLS clubs. Tickets and information can be found at: www.worldfootballchallenge.com