News, Culture & Society

Kaka, Ronaldo, Clarence Seedorf lead star-studded daily Padel tournament at World Cup

Putting down their commentary microphones and swapping plush TV studios for Padel courts, some of the most iconic footballers ever have been going head-to-head in a daily tournament in Qatar during the World Cup.

Padel is the world’s fastest-growing racket sport and is becoming increasingly popular among retired footballers.

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has stepped up to meet that demand by organising a daily tournament to get the competitive juices flowing – and he’s signed up a whole host of iconic former World Cup and Champions League winners. 

Brazilian superstars Kaka and Ronaldo – winners of the World Cup in 2002 – lead a star-studded line-up that also includes former Barcelona stars Patrick Kluivert, Ronald de Boer and Andres Iniesta, as well as ex-England international Joe Cole.

Former PSG defender Maxwell, Olivier Dacourt, ex-Tottenham star Robbie Keane, Carles Puyol, Sportsmail columnist Graeme Souness, Gabriel Batistuta and Italy icon Alessandro Del Piero are also involved in the tournament.

Padel is a hybrid sport of tennis and squash and is enjoyed by more than 25 million people around the world – with David Beckham another notable devotee.

And with time to kill in Qatar for these pundits and FIFA ambassadors now the tournament is into the knockout stages, with fewer matches per day, the mission to be No 1 on the Padel court has got them rolling back the years in the searing heat to get one over some long-time rivals. 

A who’s who of some of football’s greatest players as Clarence Seedorf (far left), Patrick Kluivert (second left), Ronaldo (second from right) and Kaka (far right) take to the Padel court

Former Ajax, Barcelona and Holland midfielder Ronald De Boer gets his sweat on on the court

Former Ajax, Barcelona and Holland midfielder Ronald De Boer gets his sweat on on the court

Jabeur (left) and Al-Khelaifi, who is organising the daily competition, share a high-five after winning a point

2010 World Cup winner Iniesta is among those competing in the daily tournament

Andres Iniesta (right) is among a star-studded group competing in a daily tournament organised by PSG chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi (left, with world No 2 tennis star Ons Jabeur)

Al-Khelaifi has been a driving force not just behind this megastar tournament but also in the growth of Padel in his role as chairman of Premier Padel. 

Premier Padel is the only official global Padel tour and it launched earlier this year, with competition governed and regulated by the International Padel Federation (FIP).

The PSG chief’s multi-sport connections also saw him recruit world No 2 tennis star Ons Jabeur, former British tennis player James Ward and ex-Brazilian tennis icon Gustavo Kuerten to the daily tournament, increasing the competition level for Ronaldo and Co.

Kluivert (main), partnered up with Seedorf, looks to play a return off the glass in a doubles tie

Kluivert (main), partnered up with Seedorf, looks to play a return off the glass in a doubles tie

Italy great Alessandro del Piero (second left) is all smiles after a doubles match with Kluivert (far left), Brazilian tennis icon Gustavo Kuerten (second from right) and Seedorf (far right)

Italy great Alessandro del Piero (second left) is all smiles after a doubles match with Kluivert (far left), Brazilian tennis icon Gustavo Kuerten (second from right) and Seedorf (far right) 

Al-Khelaifi (left) poses with Kluivert (second left), Ronaldo (middle) and Gabriel Batistuta (second from right) with the daily tournament becoming a fixture for some iconic footballers

Al-Khelaifi (left) poses with Kluivert (second left), Ronaldo (middle) and Gabriel Batistuta (second from right) with the daily tournament becoming a fixture for some iconic footballers 

It was clear to see which doubles pairings emerged for this tournament, with Al-Khelaifi wisely choosing to team up with Jabeur, the only active racquet sports player in the competition. 

Kaka and Ronaldo looked to bring that Brazilian flair to their doubles match up as they took on Seedorf and Kluivert.

Were they not preoccupied with preparing for the last-16 of the competition, no doubt Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, two known fans of Padel, would have opted in to the heavyweight clashes.  

Smaller racquets are used to those in tennis and players can fire shots off the glass walls

Smaller racquets are used to those in tennis and players can fire shots off the glass walls 

WHO HAS TAKEN PART IN QATAR SO FAR? 

Kaka

Ronaldo

Ronald De Boer

Maxwell

Olivier Dacourt

Robbie Keane

Carles Puyol

Greame Souness

James Ward (former British tennis player)

Patrick Kuivert

Gabriel Batistuta

Joe Cole

Andres Iniesta

Ons Jabeur (World No 2 tennis player)

Alessandro Del Piero

Clarence Seedorf

Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil tennis icon)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, too, is so enamoured that he has entered into a partnership with Wilson to promote a Padel racket bearing his signature, and has had a Padel court installed at Liverpool’s training ground. 

Padel is played on a 10 metre by 20m court enclosed by glass walls and metal fencing and is usually played in doubles rather than singles – which is the case in this blockbuster tournament.

The enclosed space and the ability to play shots off the glass means the ball rarely goes out of play, creating longer rallies, which is the squash-like element of the sport.

Serving is underarm and the points system is the same as in tennis. 

The balls used are similar to tennis balls but the racquets are solid with no strings.

Padel is pushing to be recognised as an Olympic sport and included in the Olympic Games. 

For now, Premier Padel provides international and national competitions – including four top category Major tournaments – similar to Grand Slams in tennis. 

Those take place in Doha, Qatar, Rome, Italy, Paris, France and Monterrey, Mexico.

At least 10 tournaments – including the 4 Majors – are scheduled for 2022 and 2023, ramping up to over 25 annual tournaments by 2024.

Whether any of Al-Khelaifi’s World Cup sign-ups can ever make the grade as an elder statesman in Padel remains to be seen. 

But as some of the finest footballers of their generation, who won the highest honours in the game, don’t expect them to go lightly in these early morning matches. 

Premier Padel can be seen in over 180 countries around the world – with broadcasters such as beIN SPORTS, ESPN and Sky Sports.

Ex-Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray, left, and retired England striker Peter Crouch, right, also enjoy the sport - which is a hybrid of tennis and squash

Ex-Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray, left, and retired England striker Peter Crouch, right, also enjoy the sport – which is a hybrid of tennis and squash 

WHAT IS PADEL?  

Quite simply, Padel is a mixture of tennis and squash.

It’s played on a 10m by 20m court enclosed by glass walls and metal fencing and is usually played in doubles rather than singles.

The enclosed space and the ability to play shots off the glass means the ball rarely goes out of play, creating longer rallies.

Serving is underarm and the points system is the same as in tennis. The balls used are similar to tennis balls but the racquets are solid with no strings.

There are over 25 million Padel players worldwide, with roughly a 50-50 male-female split. 

Though the sport was invented in Mexico in the 1960s, it’s biggest in Argentina and Spain at present but growing in popularity worldwide.  

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



Find local lawyers and law firms at USAttorneys.com