Brazilian World Cup-winner Roberto Carlos made an unlikely return to action on Friday, swapping the Maracana for a windswept, muddy English pitch as he turned out for a pub team.
The 48-year-old retired full-back appeared for Bull in the Barne United in the village of Hanwood, near Shrewsbury in western England, after the team won a charity “Dream Transfer” raffle on eBay in January.
The former Real Madrid star came on as a substitute in the first half and showed some nice touches from midfield before going off again for a breather.
He returned to the fray late on to score a penalty but Bull in the Barne went down to a 4-3 defeat at the hands of fellow Shrewsbury and District Sunday Football League side Harlescott Rangers.
The match in the March sunshine was played in front of dozens of spectators, with children watching through the fence of their primary school that adjoined the pitch.
Carlos, who earned 125 caps for Brazil, winning the World Cup in 2002, said he was happy to be playing again.
“Football is amazing and even though I’ve had the opportunity to play with the biggest names in world football, playing here is very enjoyable,” he told Britain’s Press Association news agency. “Always good to score a goal.
“A lot of people don’t realise that even though I played with some of the biggest clubs and best players in the world I started ‘here’ in Brazil, at 13, 14 years old. It brings back great memories for me playing on pitches like this.”
The defender was set to join the players at the pub afterwards.
Money raised from the raffle has gone to Football Beyond Borders, a charity that helps disadvantaged young people.
Bull in the Barne manager and goalkeeper Ed Speller, who made the raffle entry for the team, said: “We can safely say it’s the best moment of our footballing careers and it’s been one of the best days of our lives probably.
“It’s been amazing, the whole experience from start to finish. You have to be realistic and say he won’t be able to banana free-kick from 35 yards out maybe any more, but the penalty… that was top-quality, bottom-corner.
“Even any touch he had, every pass was directly to someone and on this pitch, that’s not easy, we’re struggling throughout the game to do that. He’s just a class player.”
Defender Liam Turrall said: “It’s still feeling surreal, to see him here — it’s almost like this mythical creature almost.
“You’ve seen him on TV, you’ve seen him in sticker books when you were a kid. So to see him here in the flesh is a really surreal experience that I’m sure will sink in later.”