It is not every day that a FIFA World Cup winner, two-time FIFA Confederations Cup champion and a member of the Arsenal “Invincibles” squad comes to New Zealand.
Brazil football legend Gilberto Silva will be in the country this month with the FIFA Confederations Cup trophy as part of the FIFA countdown to the ‘Tournament of Champions’ in Russia in June.
Silva, a defensive midfielder who played in every minute of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan which Brazil won, had an illustrious club and international career and is coming to New Zealand for the first time for a three day visit with the trophy from 18 – 20 March.
All Whites legend Ivan Vicelich, who played in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, will accompany Silva on the trophy visits.
The former captain of Brazil is coming to Auckland as the All Whites have qualified for their second FIFA Confederations Cup after winning the OFC Nations Cup in Papua New Guinea last June.
New Zealand Football Chief Executive Andy Martin said this trophy visit will be a special time for football fans in this country.
“Gilberto Silva is a legend of world football,” said Martin. “Having him come to New Zealand with the FIFA Confederations Cup is a huge honour and it will be a great moment for our game. I am sure his tour will be well received by football fans in this country. We are grateful to FIFA for this opportunity.
“What Gilberto achieved with Brazil and in his club career, most notably with Arsenal as a member of the “Invincibles” squad was incredible. This tour will help build the excitement around the All Whites’ involvement in the FIFA Confederations Cup as our team prepares to compete with some of the leading football nations in the world.”
The All Whites, who are getting ready for OFC Stage Three Qualifiers against Fiji later this month, will face Russia at the opening match, Mexico and Portugal at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in June.
Silva knows what success at the tournament feels like. He was a member of the 2005 squad in Germany when they defeated Argentina to win the title for a second time. Four years later, Silva was also a member of the Brazil team who held aloft the trophy in South Africa when they beat the USA in the final.
Silva played 93 internationals for Brazil from 2001 – 2010 and scored three goals. He played 170 games for Arsenal from 2002 – 2008 and was a central figure in the Gunners’ undefeated run to the English Premier League title in 2003 – 2004. His goal against Leicester City in the 60th minute earned Arsenal a 1-1 draw and kept their unbeaten run alive.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger regards Gilberto Silva as one of the greats of the beautiful game.
“If you never give up then you always have a chance, and they got a great example from a World Cup winner,” he said during his time at Arsenal. “This is a guy who has won everything.”
The FIFA Confederations Cup was established in 1992 and is contested by the holders of each of the six regional championships (UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, CAF, AFC, OFC), along with the FIFA World Cup holder and the host nation, to bring the number of teams up to eight.
Brazil are the current champions and the most successful team in the history of the FIFA Confederations Cup with four titles.
FIFA Confederations Cup Trophy in Auckland
Who: Gilberto Silva (Brazil) and Ivan Vicelich (New Zealand)
All Whites fixtures pre-FIFA Confederations Cup
2 June v Northern Ireland in Belfast, Northern Ireland
7 June v Club side (closed game) in Dublin, Republic of Ireland
12 June v Belarus in Minsk, Belarus
2017 FIFA Confederations Cup – All Whites draw
17 June 6pm (3am 18 June NZT) v Russia, St Petersburg Stadium,
21 June 9pm (6am 22 June NZT) v Mexico, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
24 June 6pm (3am 25 June NZT) v Portugal, St Petersburg Stadium