"A memory that will last a lifetime, just an amazing experience."
That is how Wellington Phoenix and All White striker Vaughn Coveny described his experiences in the Christian Karembeu Jubilee match last night at Stade Numa Daly in New Caledonia.
Coveny was one of five players selected from Oceania to partake in the celebratory match against the World Cup Winning France ’98 side.
Coveny was joined by Keryn Jordan (Auckland City), Fred De Jong (New Zealand), Gideon Omokirio (Solomon Islands) ,and Moise Poida (Vanuatu) in the sold out match against world famous stars like Zinedine Zidane, Robert Pires, Bixen Lizarazu, Christian Karembeu, Laurent Blanc and more.
The opening ceremony featured the presentation of medals to the OFC Youth Festival Champions Flying Arrows Ba from Fiji by OFC President Reynald Temarii.
The 20 teams from nine different countries were all in attendance to see the worlds best mix with some stars from their native countries.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was on hand to welcome the players onto the field and show his appreciation of all Karembeu has done for football in Oceania.
The sold out crowd of 10,000 shot the sound through the roof when they caught their first glimpse of Zidane and the France ’98 side warming up.
France ’98 put on a masterclass when the match kicked off storming out to a four goal lead courtesy of a Robert Pires hat trick and a strike from Youri Djorkaeff.
Karembeu and Zidane controlled the midfield in a way that would suggest they could still play at the very top level and the Oceania players were visibly excited about playing against old masters of the game.
"It was an emotional night for me," said Jordan. "It’s not every day you get to play against the very best in the world."
Coveny looked the most likely to score for the Karembeu X1 in the first half but the France ’98 defence still had the legs to stick with the pacey striker and prevented him getting any clear sights of goal.
The second half opened up completely and goals to Robert Pires and Zinedine Zidane were met with loud roars from the Noumea fans.
Veteran All White striker Fred De Jong went close with an acrobatic bicycle kick which just zipped past the post and would have made for a real collectors item.
But the loudest cheer of the night went to Christian Karembeu who slotted home a late penalty to give the Karembeu X1 a consolation goal and a night to remember.
Karembeu finished the night by thanking the large crowd from his birth country and joining in a native dance with his fellow countrymen.
photos by Marc Peretic Wilson