Eric, you are our star player: Deco

Eric, you are our star player: Deco
Deco in action.Ex-Portugal stars like Deco, Nuno Gomes and Maniche will feature in an exhibition match at the Tiger Street Football event at the Sports Hub's Riverside Walk.

Eric Yap's 28th birthday was spent on a street football court with a Ballon d'Or Silver Ball recipient and four other ex-Portugal stars who together won more than 250 international caps.

Nerves were understandable - the Temasek Junior College teacher's first contribution was to give the ball away to an opponent to score in the All-Star exhibition match at the Tiger Street Football event yesterday.

But instead of a rollicking, his team captain - former Barcelona maestro Deco - calmly walked over to offer encouraging words in front of a 300-strong crowd at the Sports Hub's Riverside Walk.

"You are our star player - I have faith in you," the 2004 Uefa Club Footballer of the Year whispered in the Singaporean's ear.

It was the icing on the cake for the Chelsea die-hard, who laughed nervously at the remark made by a player whom he hero-worshipped during his days at Stamford Bridge.

"It's the best birthday present I could have asked for, Deco saying I'm his star player," said a beaming Yap, who had won an online contest to feature in the star-studded line-up which included Portugal stalwarts Nuno Gomes, Maniche, Paulo Ferreira and Vitor Baia.

"It's obviously a joke but I won't remember it that way."

Their opponents - made up of street football enthusiasts whom Deco had selected from the region - were downed 8-7.

Fans were entertained throughout the 20-minute encounter on a makeshift court.

A slightly plump Maniche - a Champions League winner with Porto - drew laughs for giving away two penalties while one-time hotshot Gomes looked as sharp as ever in front of goal.

But Deco stole the show with glimpses of his wondrous skills, flicking the ball past opponents in tight spaces and gliding past his markers with stepovers and shimmies.

The 37-year-old walked off the court with a hat-trick, mobbed by selfie and autograph hunters.

He told The Sunday Times: "I had a great time in Singapore, the people's passion for football is so strong.

"I will be back to watch the Formula One night race in a few weeks."

In the main five-a-side tournament, Vietnam's Dat Vinh Tien claimed the US$40,000 (S$50,000) grand prize after beating Blue Wolves from Cambodia 6-3 in the final.

Eight street football teams from the likes of Australia and Singapore took part in the competition, which concluded yesterday after legs in Cambodia and Mongolia last month.

This article was first published on September 07, 2014.
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