Zinedine Zidane praises Asian footballers in Europe

French football star Zinedine Zidane praised Asian football's "big step forward" on Saturday as he dazzled more than 10,000 fans at a charity match in northern Thailand. Zidane said players like Japan's Shunsuke Nakamura, with Scottish league-leaders Celtic, were helping to inspire a generation. "Asian football is in the process of making a big step forward," Zidane said before taking the field with two teams of South East Asian players. "When you see players like Nakamura who are playing in Europe ... they are bringing something positive to Asian football. It is also good for future players who are here among us today, who could make this step forward and play in a big European team."

More than 10,000 fans turned up for the match, which raised 260,000 baht (US$7,750) for the Keuydaroon charity for children with HIV/AIDS, AFP reported. Zidane walked on the pitch to cheers and applause, hand-in-hand with 11-year-old HIV sufferer Ton.

See also: Adidas backs Zindane in Thai charity match for HIV (20 Feb)