Soccer

Del Piero gets his No 10 jersey from Sydney FC

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SYDNEY (AP)

Former Juventus and Italy forward Alessandro Del Piero received his familiar No. 10 jersey on Sunday a week after the A-League's biggest marquee signing arrived in Australia to begin a two-year contract with Sydney FC.

Del Piero, who signed a reported $4 million deal on Sept. 5, was presented with his jersey at a Sydney FC fan day and training session attended by about 2,000 people at Sydney Football Stadium. He then spent close to an hour signing autographs.

''I want to say thank-you to all of you, my first week here was perfect,'' Del Piero said in a brief interview. ''Very nice people and hopefully we will be able to win the title.''

The 37-year-old Del Piero is expected to play for his new club for the first time on Wednesday in a preseason match against Central Coast in Sydney.

Sydney opens its A-League season on Oct. 6 at Wellington, New Zealand, where ticket sales are 10 times ahead of last year's opening match at the same venue.

Sydney FC's first home match will be against the Newcastle Jets on Oct. 13, when former England striker Emile Heskey will be in the Jets lineup.

Those two international signings have brought worldwide attention to the often struggling A-League, and new franchise the Western Sydney Wanderers are reported to be in talks with former German midfielder Michael Ballack, who has played for Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Bayer Leverkusen.

Ballack, who turns 36 next week, made the last of 35 appearances for Leverkusen in the Bundesliga last season before moving into the commentary box with German television over the last year.

Del Piero's impact in Sydney has been immediate, with more than 5,000 general admission tickets purchased for the Newcastle match, compared with about 300 this time last year for the team's first home game.

The former Juventus star's signing has also seen Sydney FC memberships soar, with the club already surpassing the 6,800 mark they reached throughout all of last season.



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