Italian soccer legends help celebrate J. League’s 20th anniversary

AFP-JIJI

Italian soccer legends attracted tens of thousands of spectators when they gathered in Tokyo Sunday for an exhibition game with their Japanese counterparts celebrating the 20th anniversary of the country’s J. League.

Former Azzurri superstars Roberto Baggio, Christian Vieri and Franco Baresi were among those making an appearance at the National Stadium.

Baggio, 46, joined various ceremonies at the game but did not play due to a knee injury despite the entreaties of fans.

But Vieri, 39, scored twice early on in the game.

Kazuyoshi Miura, at 46 the oldest professional player in the J. League, netted a header before half-time to make it 1-2.

To enliven the show, Miura — picked as Asian Footballer of the Year in 1993 — emerged after the break in a blue Italian strip to play for the opponents.

Salvatore Schillaci, 48, a former Juventus striker who played in the J. League in his final career years, meanwhile joined his former Asian colleagues.

The final scoreline was 2-2 after midfielder Takashi Fukunishi equalized in the second half.