MONTREAL – It was probably one of the most embarrassing things that ever could have happened to Sabrina Dufour.
It was also the thrill of her life.
Dufour was part of a team of Montreal police officers that took on former French soccer superstar Zinedine Zidane in a charity game at Percival Molson Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The final score of 10-0 for the Zidane and Friends team had little bearing on Dufour’s experience because she had a brush with greatness.
Battling the former Juventus and Real Madrid great in front of her own goal in the first half, Dufour stumbled and put the ball in her own net.
“Honestly, it was a mistake, but it was one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me because it gave me an excuse to talk to Zidane,” said Dufour, who plays elite women’s club soccer.
“He tried to take the blame by telling me he grabbed my arm and hauled me down. I told him it wasn’t true, but thanks anyways.”
Dufour wasn’t the only player to come away awed by the contact with a soccer legend.
Marcus Derrick-Huie, an 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., who earned the right to play on the team through a tryout, set up Zidane for his first of two goals in the contest.
Derrick-Huie got the ball on the right side and sent a sharp pass through the box to Zidane, who made two moves before left-footing it inside the far post.
“It was amazing playing with Zidane, he’s the best player of all time,” Derrick-Huie said. “This is definitely a highlight for me. With all these French people here who love Zidane, it was intense.
“He gave me a good handshake for that pass. I’ll be able to sleep well tonight.”
Though the competition on the pitch was far from thrilling, the mere presence of Zidane was enough to keep the crowd of 15,010 in a frenzy.
They cheered every time he touched the ball, and screamed when he pulled out some fancy footwork with spin moves and deft touches to beat overmatched defenders.
A simple wave in the direction of a section of the crowd sparked massive cheers.
There were many fans wearing the famous blue jerseys of the French national team with Zidane’s name emblazoned across the back.
There was also a heavy presence from Montreal’s prominent Algerian community waving the green and white flag of the North African nation where Zidane’s parents were from.
“Thank you for your extremely warm welcome,” Zidane told the crowd in a muffled address following the game.
The 1998 World Cup champion didn’t speak to reporters afterwards, surrounded by a phalanx of security guards.
The game was touted by organizer Ahcene Adlani to include other big names like Fabien Barthez, Christian Vieri and Gennaro Gattuso, but the team Zidane played with Sunday was made up of a few lesser-knowns like former West Ham player Sergei Rebrov and Rohann Ricketts, recently let go by Toronto FC.
Adlani blamed Canadian soccer federations for putting up obstacles to getting all the players he wanted but wouldn’t go into details, saying only “I’ll write a book on it when this is over.”
This was the second stop on a three-city Canadian tour by Zidane that is serving as a fundraising initiative for UNICEF Canada, with the third and final stop coming July 4 at B.C. Place in Vancouver.
The children’s charity will receive two per cent of the revenue generated from ticket sales and 10 per cent of merchandise revenue at all three stops, said Sarah Houde, business development director for the Quebec branch of UNICEF.
Houde said UNICEF expects to collect approximately $115,000 from the three games, with the money from the Montreal stop slated for a school complex project in Burkina Faso.