7 football legends who played for amateur sides: Van der Sar, Scholes…

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Club legend Edwin Van der Sar trains with Ajax during their Orlando training camp, Omni Orlando Resort, 7 January 2019

Former Real Madrid and Manchester United men are among the players who decided to play amateur football after hanging up their boots. 

Most former players can sit around doing nothing, spend time with their family, go into coaching or maybe even start punditry to earn a bit more money.

For some, however, the pull of the game is just too much to ignore.

Several veritable legends of the game carried on playing football after they retired from the professional game, turning out for local amateur teams on either a regular or bit-part basis.

Sometimes they’re part of a marketing stunt, while other times it’s just a genuine desire to help out when their mate’s team is missing a player.

So from Milan to Chorley, Paris to Slough; here are seven legends who have traded the big time for the definitely-small time

Edwin van der Sar

“There is no doubt about it, it was a mistake not signing Edwin in 1999,” former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has said.

How many more titles could he have won if he had bitten the bullet all those years ago instead of waiting until 2005?

But if United signed him too late, spare a thought for Dutch amateur side VV Noordwijk.

They got the legendary figure both too early and too late. He played his first-ever match for the amateur team and, in 2016 at the age of 45, his last as well.

Missing a goalkeeper, Van der Sar agreed to play one match and he even saved a penalty, because of course he did.

Park Ji-sung

University is a wonderful time in your life.

You can meet a diverse group of people, study something you’re deeply passionate about and try new things.

Or you can do what Park did and do what you’ve always done: play football.

Renowned as a player for his tireless work on the pitch, he took his ethos into retirement and studied an MA in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport at De Monfort University.

He turned out for his course’s football team in a match that they lost 7-1.

Maybe stick to the books, eh Park? Clearly not got a future in the game.

Roberto Carlos

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you surely know about Roberto Carlos’ recent trip to Shropshire.

Our Brazilian football enthusiast Joshua Law went and saw him play for a pub side in all its shit glory.

Roberto Carlos (centre) poses for photographs with Bull In The Barne United players at the Hanwood Village Hall Recreation Centre, Shrewsbury. Friday March 4, 2022.

READ: I saw Roberto Carlos play Sunday league… and it was gloriously sh*t

Tony Hibbert

Hibbert was part of the furniture at Everton for the best part of two decades.

He never scored once and the saying went that when he did, Everton fans would cause a riot. When he bagged a freekick in his testimonial they came through and invaded the pitch.

But when Hibbert joined an unbeaten amateur team in Merseyside, they didn’t quite get to witness his goalscoring prowess.

In his first match for The Hares FC, he missed a penalty in a 1-0 loss, ending their unbeaten run.

But his story doesn’t end there because at the age of 40 he joined 10th tier French team ES Louzy for seemingly no reason.

And guess what: he scored on his debut in January 2022.

Paul Scholes

“What’s that mate, one of your players is missing? But your mate’s dad can fill in? Yeah, that’s fine with us pal, see you on the pitch.”

That’s how we imagine the conversation went when Manchester Premier League side Royton FC had 43-year-old Paul Scholes turn out for them one Saturday afternoon.

Scholes’ son plays for the 11th tier side and they had a host of injuries, so got his dad to step in for one match.

They lost 1-0.

On another occasion, the United legend played for Chaddy Park Veterans in an over-35s league soon after his second and permanent retirement in 2013.

He scored from the halfway line in that one; we’ll ignore the fact it was seven-a-side.

Martin Petrov

There’s clearly something in the water in Manchester, because the amateur levels seem to be full of ex-legends desperate to still kick a ball.

Back in 2013, Manchester City and Bolton hero Petrov played for the excellently named Torpedo Chorlton in the Manchester Saturday Morning League.

He scored a few times too.

Kaka

If you’ve never seen this you really should.

Kaka rocked up to play in Hackney in some Sunday League match as part of Adidas’ Rent-A-Pred campaign just prior to the pandemic.

Sent through on goal, the Ballon d’Or winner and Brazilian hero was strangely subject to someone calling for him to pass the ball.

“Kaka, Kaka, there you go, cut it back, cut it back!” the guy called… a few seconds before Kaka shot it into the top corner. On his weaker foot.

We still haven’t quite got over the audacity.

By Patrick Ryan


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