Kaka, Ronaldo and Clarence Seedorf lead the star-studded daily padel tournament at the World Cup
Putting down their commentary mics and trading luxurious TV studios for padel courts, some of the most iconic footballers ever went head to head in a daily tournament in Qatar during the World Cup.
Padel is the world’s fastest growing racquet sport and is becoming increasingly popular among retired football players.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of Paris Saint-Germain, has made an effort to meet that demand by hosting a daily tournament to get the competitive juices going – and he’s hosted a slew of iconic former World Cup and World Cup winners. Champions League signed up.
Brazilian superstars Kaka and Ronaldo – winners of the 2002 World Cup – 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 played by over 25 million people around the world – with David Beckham another notable enthusiast.
And with time to kill in Qatar for these pundits and FIFA ambassadors, with the tournament now in the knockout phase, with fewer matches per day, the mission to become number 1 on the padel field has seen them through the rolling years in the scorching heat to get one over some old rivals.
A who’s who of some of football’s greatest players such as Clarence Seedorf (far left), Patrick Kluivert (second from left), Ronaldo (second from right) and Kaka (far right) take to the padel court
Former Ajax, Barcelona and Holland midfielder Ronald De Boer is working up a sweat on the field
Andres Iniesta (right) is among a star-studded group competing in a daily tournament hosted by PSG chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi (left, with world No. 2 tennis star Ons Jabeur)
Al-Khelaifi has been a driving force not only in this megastar tournament, but also in the growth of Padel in his role as President of Premier Padel.
Premier Padel is the only official global padel tour and was launched earlier this year, with the competition administered 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, raising the level of competition for Ronaldo and Co.
Kluivert (head), together with Seedorf, seems to play a return from the glass in a double play
Italy great Alessandro del Piero (second from 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 from left), Ronaldo (center) and Gabriel Batistuta (second from right) as the daily tournament becomes a fixture for some iconic footballers
It was clear to see what doubles combinations emerged for this tournament, with Al-Khelaifi wisely choosing to team up with Jabeur, the only active racquet sport player in the competition.
Kaka and Ronaldo tried to bring that Brazilian flair to their doubles by taking on Seedorf and Kluivert.
Had they not been preparing for the last 16 of the competition, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, two well-known Padel fans, would undoubtedly have opted for the heavyweight fights.
Smaller rackets are used to tennis rackets and players can fire shots off the glass walls
WHO HAS PARTICIPATED IN QATAR UNTIL NOW?
Ronald de Boer
James Ward (former British tennis player)
Ons Jabeur (World No. 2 tennis player)
Alessandro Del Piero
Gustavo Kuerten (Brazilian tennis icon)
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is also so enamored that he has teamed up with Wilson to promote a padel racket with his signature, and has had a padel court installed at Liverpool’s training ground.
padel is played on a 10m by 20m court enclosed by glass walls and metal fences and usually played in doubles rather than singles – which is the case in this blockbuster tournament.
The enclosed space and the ability to play shots from the glass means the ball rarely goes out of play, creating longer rallies, which is the sport’s squashy element.
Serving is underhand and the point system is the same as in tennis.
The balls used are similar to tennis balls, but the rackets are solid with no strings.
Padel is committed to being recognized as an Olympic sport and included in the Olympic Games.
For now, Premier offers Padel international and national competitions – including four top category Major tournaments – similar to Grand Slams in tennis.
They will take place in Doha, Qatar, Rome, Italy, Paris, France and Monterrey, Mexico.
At least 10 tournaments – including the 4 Majors – are planned for 2022 and 2023, increasing to more than 25 annual tournaments in 2024.
Whether any of Al-Khelaifi’s World Cup signings can ever make it to rank as an elder statesman in Padel remains to be seen.
But like some of the best footballers of their generation, who have won the highest accolades in the game, don’t expect them to act 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 – a hybrid of tennis and squash
WHAT IS PADEL?
Padel is simply a mix of tennis and squash.
It is played on a 10m by 20m court enclosed by glass walls and metal fences and is usually played in doubles rather than singles.
Due to the enclosed space and the ability to play shots from the glass, the ball rarely goes out of play, creating longer rallies.
Serving is underhand and the point system is the same as in tennis. The balls used are similar to tennis balls, but the rackets are solid with no strings.
There are over 25 million padel players worldwide, with a gender split of approximately 50-50.
Although the sport was invented in Mexico in the 1960s, it is currently the largest in Argentina and Spain, but is growing in popularity worldwide.