Football stars thank Dubai for a memorable stay and promise to return soon

As they pack their bags to return home following a memorable stay in sunny Dubai, visiting international football stars have thanked Dubai government and Dubai Sports Council for hosting them and their families here, as well as for organising Sunday night’s starry twin-event, the Dubai International Sports Conference and Dubai Globe Soccer Awards, which allowed them to meet old friends and colleagues they had not seen for some time.

A Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiative, this year’s Dubai International Sports Conference was organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, under the theme “Football at the Top” at the Armani Hotel, with the majestic Burj Khalifa forming the backdrop.

The Conference featured three of modern football’s biggest stars - “El Don” Cristiano Ronaldo, Spain and Real Madrid goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas, and Bayern Munich hitman Robert Lewandowski – together on the same stage for the first time, as well as a keynote address by FIFA President, His Excellency Gianni Infantino.

Later in the evening, Ronald was crowned Player of the Century (2001-2020) at the Dubai Globe Soccer Awards, and Lewandowski was named the Player of the Year following a staggering season that saw the Poland skipper score 55 goals in 47 appearances for Bayern Munich, helping the German club win the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal at home, as well as the UEFA Champions League.

Lewandowski, who is 2020’s UEFA European Player of the Year and FIFA Men's Player of the Year as well, also received Bayern Munich’s Club of the Year trophy, as well as the Coach of the Year award on behalf of his Bayern boss Hans-Dieter Flick at the Dubai Globe Soccer Awards, and he was clearly delighted.

“Thank you Dubai and thank you Dubai Sport Council for inviting me to Dubai,” said Lewandowski in a video message. “Thank you for everything you have done for me. It was a great time for me here. It was a short time, but I have to say it was amazing because of the Awards and Dubai International Sports Conference. That was a great evening for me and I am really proud to get the Award. See you next time.”

In other Dubai Globe Soccer Awards categories, Real Madrid were adjudged Club of the Century (2001-2020), and Egyptian powerhouses Al Ahly were declared the Middle East Club of the Century (2001-2020), while Spaniard Pep Guardiola, the current Manchester City boss, was named Coach of the Century (2001-2020).

Casillas, meanwhile, was presented with a Player Career Award along with his Spanish compatriot and Barcelona star Gerard Pique.

“It was a pleasure to be here in Dubai,” said Pique, 33, who is recovering from a knee injury. “I had a great experience at the Conference and the Awards. Had the opportunity to meet the other football stars and to have an incredible few days here. I hope to see you soon and come back to Dubai as soon as possible.”

The Conference and Awards were the first international event to be organised with the physical participation and presence of international football stars and the game’s top decision-makers since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The Conference brought some of the world’s top football stars together, allowing them to meet old friends and former club-mates – like Pique and Ronaldo, who were together in Manchester United – as well as rivals. They also got to meet some former greats – like Casillas meeting Walter Zenga – as well champions from other sports, like British boxer Amir Khan.

Liverpool legend Ian Rush was also present at the Conference, along with a number of other former football players like Clarence Seedorf and Mikael Silvestre.

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