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January 11, 2019

Figo, Kaka launch World Soccer Stars amid fanfare

January 11, 2019

KARACHI: Luis Figo of Portugal and Ricardo Kaka of Brazil, two iconic footballers of the world, formally launched the World Soccer Stars 2019 here on Thursday.

The duo will be part of the April 26-29 event, involving scores of other global stars. The matches will be held in Karachi and Lahore.

“There is a great passion for football here. We have come here to help develop the sport in the country,” Figo said. “Today we did a lot of promotion and we will come back next April for the World Soccer stars, an event which will have quality players and you will enjoy their performance,” he added.

Kaka, who became part of Brazil 2002 World Cup winning squad when he was just 20, has been impressed by Pakistan and its people. “Thank you very much for warm welcome. First, it has really been a great experience. So I will come back again in April. But I had a very good impression of the country and its people,” the 36-year-old former Real Madrid player said.

The duo advised Pakistani footballers to focus on their job if they wanted to achieve anything big in their careers.

Figo said young footballers could achieve what they wanted if they worked hard with dedication. “Whenever you are in a position to follow your dreams try to work hard to achieve your goals. The rest of the things rest with the country, the clubs, the government and all the people to create facilities and opportunities for the youngsters to help them achieve their goals at the professional level,” the 46-year-old former Portugal skipper said.

Kaka advised youngsters to keep dreaming and pursuing their dreams. “The advice to the Pakistani youngsters is to dream and run after your dream. Because a lot of people here have a lot of dreams but a lot of people here don’t run after their dreams. This is just a little piece of advice for these guys. If they have dreams to play top-level football, they should go after their dreams,” Kaka said.

Both former Real Madrid players expressed same views about FIFA’s decision of expanding the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams. “We will have to see how this decision works. But more teams means probably more places and the teams which don’t have the possibility right now to play in World Cup will have opportunities to participate in the World Cup. It will generate much more money and that money should be invested at the grassroots, in federations around the world to enable them to create more facilities for the new generation,” Figo said.

“As far as quality is concerned it’s premature to say anything. We will have to see it and then make a conclusion,” he was quick to add.

Kaka hopes Pakistan will benefit from the increase in the number of teams. “Every time we have changes. More countries will come and so more people. But I think it’s a good opportunity for countries like Pakistan to become part of the biggest event not only for the team but also for the people to become part of the big event. We hope to see Pakistan in the next World Cup,” Kaka said.

He said he expected Pakistan football to flourish. “I know that football is not the most popular sport here. I think it’s cricket. But I think this tour is opening the doors to give the guys the opportunity. A lot of investment is coming to football from the government and the private sector as well and that will help,” Kaka said.

Responding to a question regarding the quality of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Brazil’s Ronaldo, Figo said: “I don’t compare players because of different generations, qualities and playing styles. I enjoyed playing with Brazilian Ronaldo and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo when he started his career. I enjoyed seeing them play,” Figo said.

About this matter, Kaka said: “I had the opportunity of playing with Ronaldo in Milan and Cristiano in Real Madrid. I had the opportunity to play with two great players who made history for football,” Kaka said.

Both also put their weight behind the importance of their club and national commitment. “When you play for your country you defend all your population. All people of your country are behind you. And when playing for a club you play for supporters. Both are very important because sometimes you pass through some difficult moments and you can play every week-end with your national team. And sometimes it helps you to get more confidence for the rest of the season,” Figo said.

Kaka said: “Just to complete Figo’s analysis . . . I think we are very lucky to have got opportunities of playing for very good teams and very good national teams. We got a chance to play in the Champions League and World Cup. Both are completely different but we enjoyed these stints. We have world Cup, the best championship which footballers get to play. And if you play in the Champions League and your team wins then it’s great,” Kaka said.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Akon, an R & B Grammy award-winning artist, would perform during the World Soccer Stars.“It’s time to rock, Pakistan. I am looking forward to visiting Karachi and Lahore. So let’s get it down in Pakistan with World Soccer Stars,” Akon was quoted as saying.

Pakistan football captain Saddam Hussain was given a seat at the back during the launching ceremony. It was only on the insistence of a sports journalist that Saddam was brought onto the stage. He not only exchanged words with the stars but also gifted them his Pakistan jersey.

“It was great to meet the world’s top players of their generations,” Saddam told ‘The News’.Reporters staged a walk-out for around 15 minutes as the organisers wasted their crucial time, making them wait for several hours.