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Ronaldinho’s arrival programme gets mixed reaction

By Alam Zeb Safi
March 14, 2017

KARACHI: Pakistan’s key international footballers and coaches on Monday gave mixed reaction to the decision of the Leisure League Pakistan and World Group to bring in Brazilian star Ronaldinho to Pakistan in near future.

“It is a revolutionary step from the Leisure League and World Group,” former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa told ‘The News’ on Monday. “It will have a massive impact on Pakistan football.

“Bringing such a mega star and particularly in current conditions is really commendable. It will be a huge moment for Pakistani footballers and fans when they will see Ronaldinho in front of them. It will attract millions of people in Pakistan towards football. The sponsors will also rush to the stage,” Essa observed.

He said the people of Pakistan would also come to know how football is suffering in the country. “The people will have an idea with Ronaldinho’s arrival that in Pakistan football has experienced a major halt in the last couple of years because of litigation. His visit will help in the resolution of the dispute which has unsettled national players both mentally and financially,” Essa said.

He said such huge steps were needed for improving Pakistan’s football. “There is a huge following of football in Pakistan and such bold steps will further attract people and players towards this sport,” said Essa, who has also got an AFC license B.

Ronaldinho, the 36-year-old former mid-fielder and member of Brazil’s 2002 FIFA World Cup winning squad, will be the guest of honour during Leisure League Pakistan launching ceremony which will be held on the day Ronaldinho arrives.

Ronaldinho announced on Sunday in a twitter video message that he was coming to Pakistan.

Essa said he was excited and would meet Ronaldinho.

It is not yet known whether Ronaldinho would also visit other cities of the country. However, a source told this correspondent that his stay in Pakistan would be brief.

Pakistan’s star striker Kaleemullah said Ronaldinho’s visit would enliven Pakistan football. “It will put a spirit in Pakistan’s football which seems dead because of the conflict,” Kaleem said. “He has been an icon in the world of football and has global recognition. His visit to Pakistan will send to the world a good message about Pakistan,” said Kaleem, who plays in the United Soccer League (USL).

He appreciated the initiative of the Leisure League to bring in the Brazilian. “No body, even the PFF, has done such a great job as has been done by Leisure League. I will also come to Karachi to meet Ronaldinho as such opportunities of meeting mega stars come rarely,” Kaleem said.

Former Pakistan coach Tariq Lutfi said that Ronaldinho’s arrival would create hype, but it would not really help Pakistan football. “He will come and go,” he said.

However, he was quick to add that his visit would provide opportunities to several people to appear on TV channels and this might develop a pressure to resolve the ongoing football dispute in the country.

Tariq said that because of the dispute there was a vacuum, which Leisure League wanted to exploit.

“Had there existed a Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) it would have been difficult for the Leisure League to take the step without taking it into confidence. They are clever and are exploiting the situation,” Tariq said.

Former Pakistan assistant coach Nasir Ismail said that his trip would not resolve Pakistan’s problems. “It is totally a business trip and won’t help us resume our international and domestic football unless court gives any decision and FIFA and AFC take the issue seriously,” he said.

“Fans will be attracted and will get selfies with Ronaldinho and that’s all. Personally I love Ronaldinho as he has been a great player and we will welcome him,” Nasir said.

He gave his thumbs-up for Leisure League. “It’s a good step; it will at least keep the players engaged in the game at a time when our football activities have been halted,” Nasir said.

Ronaldinho played 97 matches for Brazil from 1999 to 2013 and scored 33 goals.

He also has to his credit 440 matches in professional leagues around the world, in which he scored 167 goals.

Currently he serves as the ambassador for his former club Barcelona, for which he played 145 matches from 2003-08.