France legend Marcel Desailly inspires football spirit at Jumeirah Vittaveli in Maldives
Former France international Marcel Desailly has visited the Maldives twice before, the latest being a couple of years back. The football legend is back in the island paradise for a third time, and he could not be happier. In fact, he is so happy that he has already shared with his fans around the world his signature “Ah Ha Ha Ha” laugh from the turquoise waters surrounding Jumeirah Vittaveli, where he is staying.
“This place is just amazing! It’s so great to be here,” Desailly told Maldives Insider.
“You’ve preserved your environment. It’s well-organised. The community is benefitting [from] the works done by the hotels in the system. Tourism is something very important [to] you. Tourism and sports; those can be very effective here.”
True to that understanding, his third visit to the Maldives is special. Desailly has already graced the opening ceremony of Ooredoo Dhivehi Premier League — the Maldives’ top football league — and shared his inspiration with fellow professional footballers from the island nation that aspire to follow in the footsteps of legends like him.
And just a day before ending his six-day visit to the Maldives, Desailly inspired the spirit of football in an altogether different bunch of people; the team members at Jumeirah Vittaveli. The friendly fustal match was held Monday afternoon at the futsal grounds of the island resort, and was played between a team led by The Rock — a nickname he has been given due to his consistency, strength and hard-tackling playing style — and another selected from amongst the resort staff.
On the pitch, the former defensive midfielder awed the spectators, comprising staff members as well as several guests holidaying on the island, with his skills, and played an instrumental role in leading his team to an 8-4 win.
But the most defining moment came right after the 40-minute game, when he just could not get off the pitch! Improvising the carefully curated programme for the afternoon, the former AC Milan and Chelsea star went on teaching football tactics to some enthusiastic staff members.
“We’re always here to promote football, from the grassroots. … But [when you’re in the Maldives], you’ve holiday, entertainment, and you promote my passion, which is sports,” he said.
Desailly was presented with a plaque by Amit Majumder, the General Manager at Jumeirah Vittaveli, as he thanked the Frenchman for staying at the resort. Desailly, on his part, heaped praise on the resort, describing it as “the full package”.
“Good hotel. Good food. … I was given a very warm welcome,” he said.
Located a short 20-minute ride aboard a luxurious motorised catamaran from the main Velana International Airport, Jumeirah Vittaveli offers unmatched diversity, subtle luxury and personalised exploration, whether you are seeking a romantic getaway or an exotic destination for your family.
In addition to the recently launched Royal Residence, the resort comprises of 89 villas and suites each with their own swimming pool and direct access to the beach or lagoon. The private and spacious villas are available with one or two bedrooms making them the ideal accommodation for both families and couples. Highlights are the free-standing Ocean Suites, located only a heartbeat away from the main island and accessible by complimentary boat service.
In the Maldives, Desailly, who was a member of the France international squads that won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, also spoke about the latest happenings in the world of international football, including Barcelona star Neymar’s recent move to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in a record-breaking €222 million deal.
“I’m part of the people who don’t see any problem with it. You deal with talent. For a film, when they invest [USD] 400 million to make a movie, and they pay Brad Pitt for three months of work USD 30 million, nobody says anything,” he told Mohamed Hamdhoon, a sports journalist from local daily Mihaaru, after the futsal match with the Jumeirah Vittaveli team.
“I consider that Neymar coming to France will raise the profile of Paris Saint-Germain. Paris Saint-Germain will have a huge return on sponsorship and they will gain on merchandising. It’s business. It’s the fans and the media that have to understand that football has now become a business on its own. Taxi driver, tourism, broadcast, hotel — everybody will benefit. The Chinese will come to Paris again more and more to have a look at the picture of Neymar and to have a look at the stadium.”
After sharing his passion for football with professionals as well as his hosts at Jumeirah Vittaveli, Desailly leaves the Maldives on Tuesday, but only to return. Like many sports legends, including Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Carlos Tevez, Arjen Robben, Miroslav Klose and Franz Beckenbauer, Desailly has also fallen in love with the white sand beaches and the blue skies of the Maldives.