Del Piero lands in Wellington for A-League debut


WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -Former Italy and Juventus star Alessandro Del Piero set foot in New Zealand for the first time on Friday, venturing further into the unknown ahead of his debut in Australian football's A-League.

The 37-year-old Del Piero, veteran of more than 500 matches for the Bianconeri, is set to make his A-League debut for Sydney FC on Saturday in its season opener against Wellington Phoenix.

"It's all new to me," Del Piero said. "But I'm very curious and very excited and I want to know what it means, playing in the A-League and especially Wellington. Some of my team-mates have told me about it but I want to know by myself."

Del Piero's match fitness has been called into question because two pre-season matches scheduled by Sydney FC were cancelled. He played 70 minutes in an internal club match last week in his only match time since arriving in Australia and in his first hit out since June.

Del Piero will start on Saturday but told reporters at Wellington Airport he wasn't sure how long he would last.

"It depends, the flight and all that, it depends," he said. "But I try to play, first of all, good, then we watch the minutes."

His star power is seen as vital to revitalizing the faltering A-League, recently beset by falling crowds and financial difficulties.

"It's normal, it's right like that," he said of the expectation placed on him.

"I'm really happy about my first 20 days here because a lot of people come to the training and stop me in the hotel when I leave, to take a picture, so I'm really happy about that.

"A lot of Italian immigrants, they are happy too and me with them."

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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