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Local South African Stars Meet Italian Champions

In preparation for the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, Italy recently visited the outskirts of Pretoria to take on a team of local football stars.

The crowd at Super Stadium, in the suburb of Atteridgeville on the outskirts of Pretoria, chants as a team of their local soccer stars perform on the field in front of them.

Soccer is a passion in this mostly working class zone of South Africa's administrative capital, and the crowd is used to coming out to support such local teams as Supersport United, the champions of this year's South African Premier League who are represented by a number of players on the Tshwane select team lined up on the field below.

But on this night, their opponent is not the Orlando Pirates or the Kaiser Chiefs from the local tournament, but rather the defending World Cup champions Italy, with their collection of superstars.

The scrimmage was a chance to test skills against some of the best competition in the world, said Charles Goodson of the Tshwane all-stars.

Goodson says he was impressed by the organization and skill of the Italian team. After a strong early performance, the South Africans faded late and fell by a score of 6-0. Nevertheless, players say it was a great experience.

Masibusane Zongo plays for local side Supersport United, and was a part of the Tshwane side.

"It was a good experience, but if you take a look at the game, we got behind. We should catch up, as we do in South Africa," said Zongo. "We should learn from the techniques that they do, and try to do the exactly same thing that they are doing."

Zongo says despite the advances in the South African game over the past decades, the difference between the Italian superstars and the local team is still quite large.

"It is a big, huge difference," he added. "But you have to learn from them, what they do then try to take it back and work on it."

Despite the dominance of the Italians on the field, Italian players said the South Africans played an interesting game. Gianluca Zambrotta is a defender for the Italian team.

He says it was interesting to see the high level of skill and techniques of the South Africans, and considers them to be in a good moment, speaking in terms of soccer.

The Tshwane team was comprised of a collection of stars of from local professional teams. The Italians are preparing for their first game of the 2009 Confederations Cup on Monday evening against the USA.