Pakistan welcomes Kaka, Figo amid much fanfare | Pakistan Today

Pakistan welcomes Kaka, Figo amid much fanfare

Portuguese great Luis Figo and Brazilian star Kaka Thursday vowed to help develop the “great promise” of football in Pakistan, a country obsessed with cricket and twice banned from international soccer.

The two legends — who both played for Spanish club Real Madrid — are in Pakistan for a day-long visit as part of the World Soccer Stars tour, aimed at grooming nascent talent through exhibition matches and coaching clinics.

The duo made a special appearance at Karachi’s Pearl Continental after reaching via a special flight from Dubai earlier. They are also scheduled to visit Lahore before their departure. They will be traveling to Lahore where they will meet the fans at an event organised at The Packages Mall.

They are in Karachi to promote World Soccer Stars. They were welcomed at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport with the traditional Sindhi ajrak and topi.

During the ceremony, Figo came on the stage holding a bat. He said, “I feel a warm welcome from everybody; there is great passion for football [in Pakistan].”

“We’ll come with 10 legends in April to play a match,” he said, inviting Pakistan football coach Jose Antonio Nogueira on to the stage.

Kaka thanked people for the warm welcome, saying it was his first visit to Pakistan. “I have a great impression of this country and its people.”

A number of sportsmen, including Pakistan captain Saddam Hussain and midfielder Saadullah, as well as media personalities attended the event. Hussain brought Pakistan’s football jersey for Kaka and Figo. “It will be an honour for me if they accept my gift,” he said.

When a reporter pointed out to the host that the captain hadn’t been called on to stage, Hussain joined Figo and Kaka and presented the Pakistan jersey, thanking the duo for coming to Pakistan.

Figo was asked whether he supported Real Madrid or Barcelona. “It’s an easy question; I’m a member of Real Madrid.”

When asked which of the two Ronaldos — Cristiano or the Brazilian footballer — was better, Figo chose not to compare the two. “Normally I don’t compare players because of different styles. And if you choose one, it seems the other is not important. I have played with both. I can’t choose one.”

Figo said his advice to aspiring footballers was to work hard,.adding that “it’s important that the government creates opportunities.”

Kaka acknowledged that football was not as popular as cricket in Pakistan. “But we think the door is opening. “The advice is to keep dreaming and run after your dream. A lot of people don’t do that,” he added.

Answering a question regarding opening football academies in Pakistan, Kaka said he has a small project that he is starting in Brazil. “If it works, then we will bring the project to Pakistan as well.”

World Soccer Stars has promised a football spectacle starting from April 26 to 29 with two matches in Karachi and Lahore. The event is being organised by TouchSky Group who hopes that the visit of the legendary duo will help portray Pakistan’s softer image to the rest of the world.

The visit offers both cities a chance to get a glimpse of the stars and witness the gravity of the tour in the presence of industry, media, brands and most importantly Pakistan’s football fans.

Brazil’s 2002 World Cup winning squad member, Kaka in his message said, “I am delighted to visit Pakistan and play an instrumental role in promoting and helping football in the country. I have never been to Pakistan so I am really excited to come and play football whilst helping unearth hidden talent.”

Meanwhile, Portuguese legend Figo said, “It’s exciting to see another emerging country in Asia embrace football. I’m certain in a population of 220 million there must be huge potential waiting to emerge into the international scene.”

World Soccer Stars has promised a football spectacle starting from April 26 to 29 with two matches in Karachi and Lahore. The event is being organised by TouchSky Group who hopes that the visit of the legendary duo will help portray Pakistan’s softer image to the rest of the world.

The visit offers both cities a chance to get a glimpse of the stars and witness the gravity of the tour in the presence of industry, media, brands and most importantly Pakistan’s football fans.

Brazil’s 2002 World Cup winning squad member, Kaka in his message said, “I am delighted to visit Pakistan and play an instrumental role in promoting and helping football in the country. I have never been to Pakistan so I am really excited to come and play football whilst helping unearth hidden talent.”

Meanwhile, Portuguese legend Figo said, “It’s exciting to see another emerging country in Asia embrace football.  I’m certain in a population of 220 million there must be huge potential waiting to emerge into the international scene.”

Pakistan boasted a top 10 place in Asian football until the early 1970s, but a lack of government support and poor infrastructure have seen them sink to 199 in the FIFA rankings.

Pakistan was banned in 1995 and again in 2017 over violating FIFA’s rule that all federations must be free of any government and judicial interference in their respective countries.

The most recent ban was lifted in 2018, but Pakistan is on the verge of a third strike after the head of its federation refused to accept the results of a controversial leadership election held last month.

Cricket is king in the South Asian country of more than 200 million people, which has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup.

But a 2017 visit by eight international stars led by Brazilian legend Ronaldhino proved the game is gaining popularity, with younger generations adoring the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Luca Modric.

Figo and Kaka backed FIFA’s stance of increasing the number of World Cup teams from 32 to 48 in the 2026 event to be co-hosted by the US, Mexico and Canada.

It means “more players and more opportunities”, Figo said, while Kaka hoped Pakistan would seize the chance and appear in the World Cup “soon”.

Pakistan football team captain Saddam Hussain also met Figo and Kaka, while a host of young fans received autographs and took selfies with the two players.

The two stars will also visit Lahore later Thursday, and are expected to return for exhibition matches and coaching clinics from April 23-26 this year.



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