French soccer star Zidane keeps fans in suspense for Thursday charity match

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Zinedine Zidane was a no-show Wednesday, but was still the talk of practice in advance of a charity match at BMO Field on Thursday.
Even Rohan Ricketts, a former Toronto FC midfielder whose career has taken him to a string of clubs in his native England, was excited about the prospect of playing against a three-time FIFA World Player of the Year - even if the French star is now retired and looking to raise money for charity.
"He plays at his own pace. He's not rushed. He's a rare style, a rare breed," Ricketts said of Zidane, who turned 37 on Tuesday.
"It's like me asking you, 'Who would you love to meet one day that you don't see every day? Who was your hero as a kid?' He's amazing, world-class."
The Zidane tour moves to Montreal's Molson Stadium on Sunday and Vancouver's B.C. Place on July 4.
Organizer Ahcene Adlani jokes about how he convinced Zidane to come to Canada.
"I put some spells on him," he said with a laugh. Then he turned serious.
"When you go to somebody like this, you have to give him a really good argument to make him travel 8,000 kilometres to play three games in 15 days."
Adlani told Zidane he needed his help to promote soccer in Canada. Adlani also hopes the games will also raise between $100,000 and $150,000 for charities including UNICEF.
While details are sketchy, Zidane's team will be made up of European-based former players but may also boast a few locals. The opposition in Toronto will include Ricketts, Canadian and European players.
One of those teens with a chance at playing is 15-year-old Nathan Circhlow-Smith. His mother, Eulette Circhlow-Smith, says her son is "just beside himself" with excitement about being so close to Zidane - even if his exact role was unclear as of Wednesday at the Mississauga practice field.
"Even to be a gopher is just great," said his mother.
The Algerian-born Zidane cost Real Madrid a world-record 46 million pounds (C$87.3 million) when the Spanish giant acquired him from Juventus in 2001.
He helped France win the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 and lifted the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2002.
A silky smooth passer, Zidane's reputation took a blow in the final of the 2006 World Cup when he was sent off for head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi. The star midfielder still won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.
He later explained away his conduct, saying the Italian had insulted him.
Zidane has continued to play in charity events since retiring after the World Cup. An iconic figure in the world of soccer, he was showcased in "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait," a documentary film that focused on him for an entire match.

Organizations: BMO Field, Toronto FC, Real Madrid UNICEF Champions League

Geographic location: MISSISSAUGA, Canada, England Montreal Molson Stadium Vancouver Toronto France

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