Former Werder Bremen captain Clemens Fritz and one-time teammate Per Mertesacker joined forces once again over the weekend in a charity match between 'Clemens’ Werderaner' and 'Merte’s 96 Friends'.
Current Arsenal defender Mertesacker and Fritz, who this season announced his retirement from football after 11 years in Bremen, came up with the idea for the match last May as a way of raising money for their respective charities.
Speaking before the game, Fritz explained that both he and Mertesacker have charity foundations, with the money from the match being split equally between the two.
The Clemens Fritz Foundation was founded in 2008 to support disadvantaged children, housing them in family-like groups and helping them prepare for an independent life. The Per Mertesacker Foundation was set up in 2006 to help young sportsmen, and promote integration in his native Hanover.
Although Fritz was unable to play as planned due to an injury he sustained earlier this season, he was still able to stand on the touchline encouraging his men, who included former Bremen players Tim Wiese and Patrick Owomoyela, as well as current Green-White brothers Maximilian and Johannes Eggestein.
On the other side, 'Merte’s Friends' included the 'Big Friendly German' himself alongside fellow former Hannover players Steven Cherundolo, Christoph Dabrowski, former coach Daniel Stendel and current forward Niclas Füllkrug.
The over 4,400 attending fans were treated to a goalscoring spectacle at the Eilenriedestadion in Hanover with the match ending 7-7 after 90 minutes.
Fritz’s Werder side led 2-1 at half-time, before the floodgates opened and another 11 goals were scored in the second 45 minutes, including five in the final quarter of an hour. World Cup winner Mertesacker’s side led 6-3 with just over 15 minutes to go, and the centre-back will no doubt be unimpressed with his team’s defending as they went on to blow their commanding lead as Johannes Eggestein’s last-minute goal salvaged a draw for the Fritz XI.
There was even a comical moment late on when the linesman took to the field for a quick kick-about, with former Bremen and Mainz striker Ivan Klasnic replacing him running the line.
However, it wasn’t the final score or the performance that mattered as Fritz and Mertesacker were presented with a cheque for €100,000 after the game to hand over to their foundations.