David Beckham, Michael Owen and the stars of world football are set to be invited by the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, to play in a charity match to raise money for the countries affected by the Asian tsunami disaster after Sven Goran Eriksson volunteered to coach one of the teams.
The England manager has become the first high-profile figure from world football to announce his support publicly for the Fifa-organised project, with a view to an announcement later in the week. Until yesterday, the match had been kept secret to prevent expectations from being raised, but Fifa is now confident that the game will go ahead.
Eriksson was sounded out for the role by Fifa, international football's governing body, and it is understood that it has also been in talks with the executive director of the Football Association, David Davies, about the organisation of the match. The prospect of the game being played at Old Trafford has also been raised although the match would come at a time of year when the Manchester United pitch traditionally reaches its worst state.
There is also the possibility of playing the match at one of the big London grounds although Fifa is aware that it would have to get the pricing policy just right to attract a full house.
The biggest problem faced by the authorities would be the scheduling of the match which would have to take place soon enough to capture public sympathy. The date 16 February, which comes after England's friendly with the Netherlands on 9 February and before the FA Cup fifth-round weekend would seem the most suitable.
The release of players like Beckham, Owen, Henry and Ronaldinho would be contingent on their club's approval and, as yet, there have been no formal approaches made. However, it is understood that Blatter, who came up with the idea of the match, would personally appeal to the biggest clubs in Europe to release their players for the game which would feature a "President's XI" against a "Rest of the World" side.
Eriksson said: "Of course, if they want me to do that, I'm more than happy to do it. If I could do something which would help to raise money, I would do it at once. Football is something which involves the whole world, especially when you are in England.
"People see FA Cup and Premier League games all over the world. I think English football has been very good, the Premier League have sent money, many clubs have done it as well and I'm sure individual players did too.
"In a situation like this, everyone should try to help. I've been to Indonesia. It's a beautiful part of the world, and for more than 150,000 people to lose their lives is incredibly sad." Fifa has already pledged $2m [£1.09m] to a fund for those affected while there have been similar donations by the Asian and Swiss football authorities.
- More about:
- David Beckham
- Michael Owen
- Paris Saint-Germain FC
- Sepp Blatter
- Stephen Carter
- Stoke City
- Sven-goran Eriksson
- The Netherlands