LAHORE: Landing in Pakistan for the first time, the iconic FIFA World Cup trophy went on display in Lahore on Saturday.
Making a historic stop in the city as part of the CocaCola FIFA World Cup Trophy tour – visiting 91 cities across 51 countries before settling back in host-nation Russia in May – the trophy was returned back to Bangkok later Saturday night.
Former French World Cup winner and Real Madrid star Christian Karembeu brought the trophy on a specially chartered flight from Thailand to Pakistan.
“Assalam-o-Alaikum! It is a great honour for Pakistan that the FIFA trophy is here for the first time,” said Karembeu while greeting the audience at the unveiling ceremony of the trophy.
The ceremony was attended by former Pakistan’s T20 World Cup winning skipper Younis Khan, singers Quratulain Baloch, Momina Mustehsan, actor Maya Ali, captain of the national football team Kaleemullah Khan and other top local figures.
“I had never even imagined that the FIFA trophy would come to Pakistan. It is encouraging for the Pakistani footballers to have the FIFA trophy here in the country. I feel that one day Pakistan would also do well in football,” said Kaleemullah.
“It is definitely a big achievement and will put us on the map as far as international football is concerned. Events like this are crucial for bolstering the budding talent in our country and will surely hearten many football enthusiasts and young, aspiring players who want to play football in future. The initiative to bring the trophy to Pakistan can help build a proper, structured platform for football in the country – especially for would-be footballers,” he added.
The trophy was then taken to a hotel in the afternoon where it was showcased during an event attended by a delegation of key stakeholders, government officials, media, the national men’s and women’s football teams, sports bloggers and influencers.
Speaking at the event, CocaCola Pakistan and Afghanistan General Manager Rizwan U Khan said, “We all know that in recent years the popularity of football has increased exponentially in the country, transcending ethnic, linguistic and even income boundaries. This sport, incidentally the most popular sport in the world, deserves support for its growth and blossoming in Pakistan too. Bringing the FIFA World Cup Trophy to Pakistan is just the start CocaCola Pakistan is making. Plans are already underway for launching a nationwide, grassroots level football promotion campaign, and in the coming weeks you will certainly hear or read about these!”
The current trophy was introduced in 1974, is made of 18 karat gold with a malachite base and stands 36.8 centimetres high and weighs 6.1 kilograms. The trophy depicts two human figures holding up the earth.
The FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour kicked off in September 2017 in Russia. During its journey across six continents, the trophy will travel 126,000 kilometres in the months leading up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The FIFA World Cup will run from June 14 to July 15 this year.