Gianfranco Zola became the latest football star to play a role in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters when the Italy and Chelsea legend played in Tuesday’s Pro-Am with young compatriot Matteo Manassero, a four-time European Tour winner.
Currently coaching Al Arabi in the Qatar Stars League, Zola remains a hugely popular figure, especially in Italy and England, having won 35 caps for his country and become a Chelsea legend in his seven seasons with the London giants.
Early in his career, he played alongside Diego Maradona as Napoli won Serie A in 1990 and later won six trophies with Chelsea. In 2003, Chelsea fans voted Zola as the club’s greatest-ever player.
Zola, 49, also learned to play golf while at Chelsea, although he has played mainly at Doha Golf Club since moving to Qatar last year.
“I love golf. Now, I play about once a week here,” said Zola, who currently holds a four handicap. “I really started to play when I was at Chelsea. There were some good players like Mark Hughes and John Terry was also pretty good.”
Last July, Zola was appointed coach of Al Arabi and the current Doha resident said he was happy to play in Tuesday’s Pro-Am at an exciting time for local football, with the Qatar U-23 team bidding to qualify for this year’s Olympics.
“I wish Qatar all the best as they try to get into the Olympics,” said Zola, who represented Italy at the 1994 World Cup and Euro 96.
Zola is the latest international footballer to take part in activities at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. Last year, former England stars Glenn Hoddle and Andy Cole, and former Scotland striker Andy Gray played on the same team in the Pro-Am.
In 2014, Gray, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan and Wales coach Chris Coleman played with John Daly in the Pro-Am before teaming up as the ‘Football Masters’ against the ‘Qatar Masters’ – Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer – in a fun skills challenge in the Family Zone.
On the Friday of the same tournament, Manchester United legend Dwight Yorke participated with the Trick Shot Boys before heading to watch good friend Sergio Garcia over the weekend, when he was rewarded by watching the Spaniard win his first title in Doha.
A year earlier, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were among a dozen of the Manchester United squad training in Qatar to attend the first day’s play on the Wednesday, when they walked the course to follow Justin Rose among other players.