London will always hold a special place in Éric Abidal’s heart – and that is exactly why he cannot wait to return this summer for the inaugural Star Sixes tournament.
It was in London as recently as 2011 that Abidal lifted the Champions League trophy at Wembley Stadium as Barcelona defeated Manchester United 3-1 in the final.
And now the defender is set to come back to the capital as part of the France team who will take on 11 other nations at Star Sixes, a new world six-a-side competition for iconic former internationals, taking place at The O2 from 13-16 July.
“The Champions League final was a great victory and a very important trophy,” said Abidal, recalling his memories of that famous night in 2011.
“That makes London a very special city for me and my professional career. It will be great to be back again.
“The event is a great idea. It’s always a great honour to share moments with old friends and team-mates and to wear the French shirt again.
“I usually play futsal with my friends back in Barcelona to stay fit. I need to be fit so I won’t let down my teammates at Star Sixes and also be in great shape to represent my country.”
Abidal’s eagerness to play well this summer is justified when you glance at the stars he will be lining up alongside at The O2.
The France team will be captained by Arsenal legend Robert Pirès, while Olivier Dacourt and William Gallas will add steel to the side’s flair.
“It will be a great pleasure to play with them again,” Abidal added. “We have played together for the France national team but also at club level in some cases.
“They are older than me so I will have to run a little more on the field, but on the other side they have a lot of quality and have more experience than me. I’m very proud to play with them again.”
However, while France may boast an impressive team, there is no shortage of football icons standing in their way, with England boasting the likes of Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand in their ranks.
Abidal knows many of them from his glittering playing career, including La Liga rivals such as Real Madrid legend Míchel Salgado as well as Barcelona teammate Carles Puyol, who captained him during his time at the Camp Nou.
“Yes, I spoke to Carles only this morning!” he said. “It will be an honour to play against him but also against other players, such as the Portuguese and English ones for example.
“We’ve known each other for a long time and the four days at the event will be great to catch up with a lot of friends.”
While Abidal is gunning for glory this summer at Star Sixes, his former side Barcelona are hoping for what would surely be regarded as a footballing miracle on Wednesday night when they take on Paris Saint-Germain.
The Spanish side are 4-0 down going into the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie, but Abidal believes they can turn it around.
“It’s a very difficult task but from what I know from the club and the players, I believe it’s possible,” said Abidal.
“They need to start the game really well, reach half-time with a significant goal difference and finish the job in the second half.
“Obviously, this would be the ideal scenario for FC Barcelona, but they cannot forget they are playing against a great team that had an amazing first leg.”
Make sure you don’t miss the inaugural Star Sixes tournament at The O2, where 12 international teams will go head-to-head from 13-16 July for the first trophy. Get your tickets by visiting Ticketmaster or AXS.