French football legend Thierry Henry was in South Africa to watch the 2019 UEFA Champions League final on television screens with dizzy fans.
A teaser campaign on Heineken South Africa’s Twitter page unveiling the identity of a legendary footballer kicks off the 2019 season of the UEFA Champions League.
It certainly piques the attention of South African fans on social media who tentatively await the unmasking of this legend – French footballer Thierry Henry.
Even as fans attempt to piece the mysterious mosaic, the Champions League 100 club member is already making his way from Europe to watch the much-anticipated UEFA Champions League tournament final on June 1, on a giant television screen with his South African fans, at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit race track in Johannesburg.
South Africa’s vibrant football culture finds expression in all venues, from the dusty make-shift fields that continue to play a crucial role in community life in townships, to the manicured green pitches of gargantuan stadiums.
As Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC take to the field for the final leg in Spain, here in Johannesburg, all eyes are on Henry, who can barely focus with all the attention on him. But these are interactions the former FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC striker would not trade for anything else – even watching the match in the comfort of his own home.
“It is always nice to have these moments with South African fans. Usually, I would be at home watching the game, but now, I am in South Africa. It is a bit surreal to watch the Champions League that happens in Europe, in Africa,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
Watching the all-English final on South African soil evoked nostalgia, and Henry reminisces the beginning of an illustrious career in football.
“I went to Monaco [to play] as a youngster; that was the choice. I didn’t know we were going to make the Champions League. I was just trying to be a football player,” he says.
Henry then moved to Arsenal, and then Barcelona where he ended up winning the Champions League.
The bulk of the retired footballer’s career as a player was in the English Premier League for Arsenal FC that saw him as Arsenal’s all-time top scorer, with 228 goals, for the club.
“The moves were based on competing, trying to get the best out of myself and get the best out of my teammates,” he says.
Despite a two-nil loss on Henry’s first professional appearance for Monaco in 1994, first impressions should make a lasting impact, he says.
“For me, it is always the first game, it is very important because you are now on the scene and you need to make sure that everybody can see what you are about in that particular moment. I remember losing the first game but I had an impact and the rest is history.”
On June 1, Liverpool FC was crowned champions in the 64th season of the premier football tournament.
The win for the English team meant more beer, selfies and snapshots with Henry for the few lucky South African soccer fans, and again, the rest is history.