Two Hastings raised footballers went head-to-head with some of the best players in the world on Sunday during a glamour pre-season friendly with the mighty Real Madrid.
AFC Bournemouth duo Steve Cook and Shwan Jalal lined-up against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and his star-studded team-mates, with the Spanish giants running out 6-0 winners.
Cook started the game in central defence and was tasked with marking Ronaldo and French international Karim Benzema before moving into midfield to do battle with ex-Tottenham Hotspur talent Luca Modric.
“Of course it was an excellent experience,” Cook said. “To come up against such world class players like those guys was amazing. Facing players like Kaka, Mesut Ozil and of course Ronaldo was just crazy.”
Cook - a defender by trade - was switched to the centre of the park for the first time in his career during the game, an experience which he won’t forget in a hurry.
“I’ve never played there!” he laughed. “Trying to adapt was tough; there was a lot of off-the-ball work, and it was a real test of fitness and concentration.”
Goalkeeper Jalal, meanwhile, began the game on the bench having played 24 hours previously in a 2-1 loss to Woking. He entered the fray for the final 10 minutes with Los Blancos already six goals to the good.
“I can say I kept a clean sheet!” the Iraqi-born stopper said. “I didn’t have many saves to make and it was mainly sweeping up throughballs. But of course, it was incredible.
“It was a pleasure to be warming up opposite and then sitting on the bench watching the likes of Ronaldo and seeing them so close. I’ve been at the club six years and the fact that it can be involved in a fixture of this magnitude is a testament to how far it has come.”
Off the pitch, the Bournemouth players had their matchday shirts signed by players and even retired legends from the La Liga club. “I met my ultimate footballing idol,” Jalal added. “Zinedine Zidane shook my hand and signed my shirt. It was unforgettable.”
Former William Parker Sports College student Cook moved to Championship club Bournemouth from Brighton & Hove Albion last year and has clocked up almost 60 league appearances for the Cherries.
Jalal was a Hastings Town (now United) player as a teenager before signing for Spurs in 2001. The 29-year-old has since played for Woking, Sheffield Wednesday and Peterborough United.