JAKARTA: About 1,000 people, including visiting French football star Zinedine Zidane, played football on 200 pitches installed in central Jakarta yesterday.
In jeans and a polo shirt, Zinedane took part in a three-minute match of futsal – miniature soccer – on a stretch of street in the Indonesian capital, playing with local celebrities and government officials.
Hundreds of people crowded around the venue, cheering Zidane using his nickname “Zizou.”
Earlier Zidane, who is completing a three-day visit here, met Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso before boarding an open jeep to inspect the 200 futsal fields erected on the city’s main thoroughfare.
Sutiyoso said: “Zidane’s visit will increase confidence that Indonesia is safe to visit.”
Indonesia is recovering from a series of bomb attacks and health scares such as bird flu, which have cut down on the number of tourists visiting the country.
Poor air safety and security, which has recently led to the European Union to ban Indonesian aircraft from flying to Europe, has further discouraged visitors.
Football is one of the most popular sports in Indonesia, a co-host of the Asian Cup which kicked off on Saturday in Thailand.
Zidane, in Indonesia in his role as an ambassador for children’s programmes for French company Danone, met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday.
The former Real Madrid and Juventus midfielder retired from professional football after playing for France in the 2006 World Cup final. – AFP