Foxtel All Stars skipper Alessandro Del Piero waved goodbye to Australian football fans on Sunday night in awe of just how far the Hyundai A-League has come.
In front of more than 55,000 fans at ANZ Stadium, Josep Gombau’s side almost claimed a memorable victory over Italian champions Juventus.
Only two late goals from French whiz kid Paul Pogba and Italian international Simone Pepe saved Juve, pinching a 3-2 win at the death.
For Del Piero – against the club where he made his name – the night was more than just about the result but putting on one last show for Australian fans.
“I’m happy for my performance on the pitch. Training alone is different than training inside the team that’s why I’m happy I can play in front of my former team-mates and be proud,” he said.
“In the end the result doesn’t matter. They scored in the last two minutes but we played a great game.
“We had more opportunities to score a goal, we stayed compact all the time that’s why in just one week it’s great to show to everyone, not only to big team like Juventus but to everyone, how the level of the A-League and Australian football has improved.
Del Piero played an hour before he was substituted to a standing ovation from the entire crowd.
He was embraced by a number of his All Stars team-mates, as well as some of his former ones from Juventus as he exited an Australian pitch for the last time.
“I spent a great week with my team-mates and Josep (Gombau). We trained like a team, like a real team and I enjoyed that type of atmosphere.
“That’s why I want to play on and I’m looking for the best for my career. Tonight was amazing to play a great team like Juventus, a lot of my friends play against me.
“It was a real game and everyone enjoyed that. For me it was amazing when I came off and all the people clapped their hands. That’s why I want to say thank you. I’m proud of the time I spent in Australia.”
The All Stars led 1-0 at the break thanks to Marcelo Carrusca’s strike before Fernando Llorente equalized 15 minutes into the second half.
Substitute Tomi Juric put the home side back in front with almost his first involvement with just 13 minutes left before the Bianconeri showed all their class late on.
“I’m happy with everybody. We did a good game and we showed to everyone this league has a good standard,” All Stars boss Gombau said.
“I’m proud of my players but I’m sad about the result.
“Today we projected the image of the A-League around the world. This is not easy. The people now when they think of an Australian team they think of good football. This is important and not easy to get.”