The amazing Cristiano Ronaldo headed in the first goal as Portugal topped Wales and its superstar Gareth Bale 2-0 in the semifinals of Euro16 on Wednesday.
On Sunday, Portugal will host France in the Euro16 championship match … and on July 27, Ronaldo and Bale will be in Columbus, as their Real Madrid (Spain) squad takes on Paris Saint-Germain (France) in the International Champions Cup.
How’s that for some international soccer star power right here in Columbus?
“Real Madrid is recognized as the most famous soccer club of all time and Ronaldo is the best player in the world,” said Ohio State men’s soccer coach John Bluem.
Bluem and perhaps as many as 100,000 soccer fanatics will be at the match, which is part of the fourth edition of the International Champions Cup. The 10-team lineup includes many of the top clubs in international soccer: Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester City from England; Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and FC Internazionale from Italy; Real Madrid and Barcelona from Spain; Bayern Munich from Germany; Celtic FC from Scotland. These teams feature about 50 of the world’s top 100 players.
“For several years now, the top professional teams from Europe have been coming to the U.S. every summer to play in big stadiums,” Bluem said. “And the fact that Ohio Stadium and Columbus and Ohio State are getting together to bring a game of this magnitude here is a great thing and a strong sign that the game is really strong and popular in Ohio.”
Ohio is one of the nation’s top state in terms of the number of youth soccer players. “And we have eight (NCAA) Division I college teams,” Bluem said. “Ohio is a soccer hotbed.”
All the games of the 15-match tournament will be broadcast on the ESPN family of channels. Click here for more information and ticket information.
“My staff and I will be there with several of our alumni,” Bluem said. “About 12 of our players are in town this summer, most of them taking classes, and they’ll be there.”
The Shoe – which will get a temporary grass field for the game – is a fitting place for this world-class match. It was the first home of the Columbus Crew SC and 31,550 fans attended the Sept. 15, 1996 game against New York. This is still the team’s all-time attendance record.
“I’m thankful our administration sees the value of this opportunity to bring such a big game here,” Bluem said. “It will bring a lot of attention to Ohio State and bring a lot of people to the stadium for the first time.”
The U.S. record for attendance at a soccer game is 109,318, which was set on August 2, 2014 when Real Madrid and Ronaldo took on Manchester United in an International Champions Cup game at Michigan Stadium.
“The success that the club was able to generate at the Shoe spawned the growth of the team” and led to the building of MAPFRE Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium in the country, said Andy Loughnane, President of Business Operations of the Columbus Crew SC. “All across the globe, all eyes will be tuned into Columbus on (July 27).”
Paris Saint-Germain may not have quite the star power of Real Madrid, but the team has won three consecutive French Ligue 1 titles and is the defending International Champions Cup champions. They are led by Thiago Silva, a member of Brazil’s national team.
“We are thrilled to bring the matchup between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain to Columbus and Ohio State University,” said Charlie Stillitano, Chairman of Relevent Sports, the organizers of the International Champions Cup. “Ohio Stadium is a tremendous sports venue that holds record crowds and we expect the great sports fans in the Columbus area to fill the Shoe to capacity.”