Festival feel adds to Champions League final atmosphere

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

By Mike Collett

MADRID (Reuters) - Twenty-eight years after playing against each other in the World Cup final in Madrid, Alessandro Altobelli and Paul Breitner were reunited in a rather more relaxed match in the Spanish capital on Saturday.

The two old foes, who have enjoyed a long friendship down the years since Altobelli's Italy beat Breitner's West Germany 3-1 to become world champions in July 1982, were involved in UEFA's "Ultimate Champions Match."

The game, featuring big names from football's past, was part of a week-long Champions Festival before the first Champions League final to be staged on a Saturday.

While the players of Inter Milan and Bayern Munich were preparing for the evening final (1845 GMT) at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, the heroes of old were thoroughly enjoying their afternoon in the sweltering sun.

Although resplendent in an all-white playing strip reminiscent of the Real Madrid one he wore in the late 1970s, Breitner watched on as coach while Altobelli scored several goals in an entertaining five-a-side exhibition which ended up with an estimated scoreline of 18-18.

"Every team needs a coach," Breitner told Reuters after the players delighted a sizeable crowd that applauded the still-sweet touches of players such as Steve McManaman, Enzo Scifo, Michael Laudrup and Emilio Butragueno.

"We had enough players so I didn't need to play," said Breitner. "It's great to see all the old guys, and I go to see Alessandro when I visit Milan to see either Milan or Inter."

The Champions Festival, in Madrid's Parque del Retiro, featured soccer games, sideshows, stalls and entertainment as part of UEFA president Michel Platini's plan to make the event more of a family affair.

Under his direction, UEFA switched the final from Wednesday to Saturday because, Platini noticed, not many children went to the midweek final.

Manuela Rossi, a mother of two young boys and an Inter fan, was pleased with the move.

"The fact it was a Saturday meant we could make a weekend of it," she told Reuters as she strolled through the park. "I understand Platini's thinking."

In Madrid's sun-drenched squares, thousands of German and Italian supporters gathered as the day wore on.

For Breitner, who lifted the European Cup with Bayern in 1974, the result of the final was not in doubt.

"All I know for sure today is that Bayern will win tonight," he said.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)