TWO DAYS after he turned 40, former Spanish international footballer Fernando Morientes made his way to Kuala Lumpur for a different sort of celebration with his fans and local football enthusiasts.
The former Real Madrid, Liverpool and Monaco striker was eager to get Malaysians on their feet for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2016, scheduled to kick off in June.
Although he retired from the game in 2010, the father of four was fast to share his views on the much-awaited football event of the year.
“There are many things to look out for at this year’s tournament. With a lot of great talent on display and young players emerging, this promises to be an exciting tournament.
“Belgium has a fantastic team with very good players, they are not the favourites but they are definitely the team to look out for this in this edition,” said Morientes, who has won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid.
Morientes, who started his career at the age of 16 with division one club Albacete Balompié, was certain that the favourites; World Cup champion Germany and UEFA Euro 2012 defending champions Spain would put on a good show as expected.
“We cannot say England, Portugal or home team France are not strong as these three nations have very good players too and anything can happen on the pitch,” he said at the launch of Astro’s UEFA Euro 2016 campaign at Sunway Pyramid shopping mall recently.
He added that many players might seem to be veterans on the field but they were still key players in their teams, hence players like Cristiano Ronaldo should not be sidelined.
Asked which player he tips to be the star of the tournament this June, Morientes hesitated before saying, “Just one? I have two. It’s Robert Lewandowski and Alvaro Morata,” he said.
Morientes, who spent a year with English Premier League club Liverpool during his career, also said playing in the English Premier League was challenging for him as language became a barrier while the playing style also differed compared to the La Liga where the game was more technical and fast paced.
After the launch, the Spanish star spent time meeting with his fans who had been waiting in line for the autograph session.
Many brought along football jerseys with Morientes’ name on them as well as posters and photographs.
Come June 11, Astro will be broadcasting all 51 matches “live” in HD on Astro TV and Astro on the Go via two dedicated Astro Supersport channels.
Subscribers will also be able to receive official match statistics, highlights in multi camera angles and push notifications on the latest news, videos and results from the tournament through its Stadium Astro website and app.
All Sports Pack subscribers will receive the full coverage of UEFA Euro 2016 while other Astro customers can get their complimentary “sports pass” by subscribing to the Sports Pack before April 30.
Fans can also purchase selected matches with a pay-per-view offer at RM6 per match.
“With each live event, we aim to enhance our sports offering based on feedback from fans.
“The UEFA Euro 2016 is the football event of the year and Astro will deliver unmatched coverage as 24 European nations battle for football supremacy,” said Astro chief operating officer Henry Tan.
Tan said Astro will begin its campaign with the opening match between France and Romania on June 11 at 3am.
Astro customers will also be able to view pre-tournament programmes in the run-up to the tournament, such as Road to UEFA Euro 2016 and UEFA Euro 50 Classic matches.