‘Ronaldinho and Friends’ arrive in Pakistan amidst tight security
RAWALPINDI, July 08 (SABAH): A group of international football players called on Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Rawalpindi on Saturday.
The group includes Ronaldinho along with his fellowmen Ryan Giggs, Robert Pires, Nicolas Anelka, George Boating, David James and Luis Boa Morte.
Expressing gratitude to the international players, the army chief Pakistan is a peace and sports loving country. He said sports promote peace and their visit is most welcomed by all Pakistanis especially young footballers.
The visiting players thanked Army Chief for organizing their tour and the support. They said Pakistan is a beautiful country and they look forward to enjoy the trip.
They army chief thanked Leisure League for organizing the trip of international football players in collaboration with Pak Army and promoting peace and sports.
Earlier, the army chief hosted receptions in honor of visiting football players.
Earlier seven top footballers from around the world, including Brazilian legend Ronaldinho and Manchester United great Ryan Giggs, arrived in Pakistan on Saturday for two exhibition matches.
Brazilian hero Ronaldinho, former Manchester United stalwart Ryan Giggs, former England goalkeeper David James, Dutch star George Boateng, former French players Robert Pires and Nicolas Anelka, and Portuguese player Luis Boa Morte reached Islamabad on Saturday via a private jet.
Brazil and Real Madrid great Roberto Carlos did not travel with the group. The lineup, dubbed ‘Ronaldinho and Friends’, is set to play with a group of Pakistani footballers for two seven-a-side matches in Karachi on Saturday and in Lahore today (Sunday).
Ronaldinho, 37, who won the World Player of the Year twice and was part of the 2002 World Cup winning team, said he is on a goodwill mission aimed at inducing youngsters to play the game.
“I am excited at the prospect of playing in Pakistan,” he said in a statement. “This is a great opportunity for us to induce youngsters in Pakistan and we will do our best to do that.”
Giggs, who retired after a long career with United in 2014, said he was “privileged” to take part. He replaced former England and Chelsea captain John Terry, who pulled out due to new commitments with English side Aston Villa.
The Pakistan Army is providing security for the players and matches, deploying troops in and around hotels, airports and stadiums over the weekend, officials have said.
Pakistan boasted a top place in Asian football until the early 1970s, but a lack of government support and poor infrastructure helped push them to as low as 200th in the FIFA football rankings. The game is growing in popularity once more, however, even in a country obsessed with cricket.
“It´s a great occasion,” said Pakistan team captain Kaleem Ullah, who also played for Sacramento Republic FC in USA and Kyrgyzstan´s FC Dordoi Bishkek. He will take part in one of the matches.
Other Pakistani players in action with ‘Ronaldinho and Friends’ will be Saddam Hussain, Saadullah, Yousuf Butt, Abdul Aziz, Muhammad Essa, Ghulam Rasool, and star of street child football team Mohammad Razzik.