Zola led the charmers


The Cayman Islands is enjoying a spell of entertaining football royalty from Italy. Last week, thanks to main sponsors Digicel and through the efforts of golfer Marcello Santi, football legends Gianfranco Zola and Daniele Massaro were here for a series of football clinics and to play in an exhibition match. 

The clinics were organised by Academy coach Virgil Seymour. The exhibition match was at the Camana Bay playing field on Friday between a sponsors team and a golf pro team that Santi played in. The footballers were here in conjunction with a golf tournament organised by Santi, the annual Audemars Piguet Invitational, held at the Ritz-Carlton’s Blue Tip course. Digicel were the main sponsors.  

Zola, 45, is still here on vacation and he has been joined by another former Italian great, Pierluigi Casiraghi and is a former colleague of Zola’s in the national team and at Chelsea. Santi said: “All the players absolutely love it here and are looking forward to coming back.” 

Zola played the match in typical good spirits, smiling throughout. His son, Andrea, 20, was in the side too. Andrea was briefly a West Ham pro, signed by hie father who was manager for two years until sacked last year. Gianfranco has been relaxing ever since.  

Zola said: “This is my second time to the Cayman Islands. I first came last year and we loved it. We had such a fantastic time that we came back straight away as soon as we had the opportunity. This is a great place. I enjoy doing the kids coaching. We’ve been treated so well here and if I can give something back it is very good for me to do that.” 

Zola’s playing career was a glittering one. His first big club was Napoli (with Diego Maradona), then Parma, over 300 glorious games for Chelsea before finishing at Cagliari. He looks on his time with Chelsea fondly. “There are so many good memories about Chelsea. Like winning the first FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. It was a fantastic time for me personally and I have a lot of good memories about it.” 

Massaro was a World Cup winner in 1982. His main clubs were Monza, Fiorentina and AC Milan. Massaro loves Grand Cayman as much as the Zolas. He said: “I’m having fun. I play golf, go on the beach and play soccer with the kids. Too short a time. I want to come back very soon. I’ve tried many restaurants here and the food is very good and I’ve made some very good friends and kind people. I have not done many tourists things, maybe next time.”  

Massaro, 50, works in marketing and does PR for his former club AC Milan, travelling worldwide hosting summer camps.  

AC Milan have been drawn in the next round of the Champions League against Arsenal. “AC Milan is not doing so well in Serie A, maybe fourth. But we are still playing good soccer.”  

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Gianfranco Zola was a hit with the Academy kids. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD

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