Pakistan’s biggest footballing event

Discussion in 'Sportistan' started by chandtara, Mar 13, 2017.

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  1. chandtara

    chandtara Mr Cricistan

    Jun 18, 2011
    Video -

    KARACHI: While the PSL final provided cheerful moments to cricket fans in Pakistan, there is something bigger in the bag for football enthusiasts in the country.

    Reliable sources have informed that Brazilian legend Ronaldinho has confirmed his availability to visit Pakistan.

    "Ronaldinho has signed to visit and play a football match in Pakistan," confirmed the source.

    Experts believe that the event is going to be one of the biggest sporting spectacles the country has ever seen.

    ASLI-PATHAN Cricistan Khan

    Apr 26, 2011
  3. chandtara

    chandtara Mr Cricistan

    Jun 18, 2011
    Pakistan former star all-rounder Shahid Afridi has expressed delight over the coming of Brazil football legend Ronaldhino on a visit to Pakistan, where he will play an exhibition match.

    "It is good to see more international sportsman visiting my beloved country," said Afridi in a post on Twitter.

    - Welcome @10Ronaldinho it is good to see more international sportsmen visiting my beloved country... #football #Pakistan

    Shahid Afridi (@SAfridiOfficial) 14 March 2017
    Ronaldinho too expressed gratitude over the statement by one of the biggest cricket stars in the world. The World Cup winning star posted a message in Portuguese saying I am happy by the words Pakistans cricket hero Boom Boom Shahid Afridi. I look forward to my visit to Pakistan in July.

    Feliz pelas palavras Shahid Afridi BOOM BOOM heri de crquete do Paquisto. Aguardo c grande expectativa minha visita ao Paquisto em julho

    Ronaldinho Gacho (@10Ronaldinho) 15 March 2017

    @10Ronaldinho Awaiting ur arrival brazilian superstar nd ?? legend. Will be a pleasure to show u my ????. #HopeNotOut

    Shahid Afridi (@SAfridiOfficial) 15 March 2017

    Just days ago, Ronaldinho confirmed that he would be touring Pakistan in a video message.

    Pakistan I'm coming! ???? ???? #RonaldinhoInPakistan#worldgroup1912 #leisureleaguespk

    Ronaldinho Gacho (@10Ronaldinho) 12 March 2017

    Ronaldinho will play in one of the league matches which will be held in Karachi. The organisers of the Leisure League have invited the Brazilian football great to play an exhibition match.
  4. chandtara

    chandtara Mr Cricistan

    Jun 18, 2011
    Pakistan’s biggest footballing event

    KARACHI: And then there were eight.

    Captains Ronaldinho and John Terry, along with a superstar cast of Robert Pires, Roberto Carlos, Nicolas Anelka, David James, Luis Boa Morte and George Boateng.

    These eight players will compete in a seven-a-side exhibition match on July 8 in Karachi and July 9 in Lahore, with three players apiece lining alongside Ronaldinho and Terry in either team.

    “The national champions of the Leisure Leagues will get the unique chance of playing alongside these players,” said World Group Chief Operating Officer Ishaq Shah. “Each team can have a maximum of 10 players, with seven playing and three subs, so as many as 12 local players will rub shoulders with these eight legends of the beautiful game.”

    The World Group is the company behind UK-based Leisure Leagues coming to Pakistan in the first place. “Leisure Leagues existed in three countries before; the UK, the US and the Republic of Ireland. We bought ownership for the remaining 203 countries, while also becoming a partner of the venture in the UK — where the league is headquartered. So Pakistan is the fourth country in the world where Leisure Leagues have been introduced. We plan to take it to the Middle East and Europe after this.”

    The grand exhibition match will be Leisure Leagues’ magnum opus but Ishaq insisted the initiative has already seen more than expected interest from the country’s youth. “We have brought something truly unique to the football-loving youth of Pakistan and it’s great to see them respond in such enthusiastic fashion,” he said. “We provide them with grounds that are of an international standard, we provide them with footballs of the highest qualities as well as a trained referee, while also having complete first-aid kits at hand in case an injury takes place.”

    The facilities provided may well be better than anything previously available to the general public, but it does come at a steep price. “Each 30-minute match costs Rs5,000. Since there are two teams of 10 players apiece, that makes it Rs250 a person.”

    Most futsal and football grounds across the country can be booked at half the price for double that time.

    Ishaq knows the price may not be everybody’s cup of tea but made no bones about this being a business venture first and foremost. “If you do something as non-profit or start depending on donations, then you can soon lose interest in it,” he said. “We want to make this a commercial success as well in order to ensure that it is a self-sustaining project. That way we can ensure the country and its football fans benefit from this in the long run.”

    And football fans do have a lot to look forward to if World Group’s plans for Leisure Leagues do come to fruition. “This [the Ronaldinho and Friends exhibition match] is not a one-time thing,” promised World Group President Shahzeb Trunkwala, also present in the lavish meeting room at the company’s Pakistan headquarters in upscale DHA. “We will organise this every year. And from next year we will try to bring in current players rather than retired ones.”

    Ishaq further revealed that talks have already begun to bring ‘the best’ players in the world to Pakistan for next year, but was naturally hesitant to divulge their names since talks are at a very early stage at the moment.

    The event may be arguably the biggest footballing event in the country’s history but football players and fans have more to look forward to.

    “There is a team that is currently playing in the United Soccer League, which will soon be a part of Major League Soccer — US’s major football league — that will be sending their scouts to Pakistan every year,” claimed Ishaq. “A trial camp will be set up, from which they will be choosing five players every year. These players will go train with them in the US and, if they impress there, can become professional footballers.”

    Other initiatives are also on the way. “We have talked to all the provincial governments,” added Shahzeb. “We have asked them to provide us with land and we will build football grounds on them so that the youth of this country can indulge in healthy recreational activities. We have had a promising response from all of them, especially the Punjab government, which is willing to give us as many as 100 grounds if we guarantee to deliver on our promises.”

    The two men did admit though that paying Rs250 is not possible for every young football enthusiast in the country. “Yes, we know that many can’t afford it, that is why there are some teams that play for free,” said Shahzeb. “Around 10 per cent of the teams play for free; who these teams will be is decided based purely on the basis of merit and need. And there is also going to be a league in Lyari that will take place completely free of charge since we know how much the people of that area love football.”

    The format

    With more than 100 teams already registered, the Leisure League format has teams playing across the year in several leagues.

    “Since we know this isn’t a professional league, we realise that people have other commitments as well,” said Ishaq. “We know that these commitments are important to them and that they play football on the side. We therefore give them the opportunity to play whenever it is convenient for them. Want to play on Sundays only? You can do that. Have other commitments on Sunday and would rather play on Wednesday night? That is also possible. There is a lot of flexibility.”

    The players though play in their separate cities and there are multiple leagues within major cities, which means crowning a national champion can be tricky business.

    “The winners of all the different leagues play against each other in knockout games generated via a computer,” explained Ishaq. “The winner of that will be crowned the champions of that city or region. The champions of all regions then face off against each other in a similar format to crown the national champion.”

    Other than getting a memorable chance of playing alongside the likes of Ronaldinho and Pires, the national champions will also be competing in the ‘Mini Football World Cup’, where they will be representing Pakistan.

    “Leisure Leagues’ Pakistan national champion will play in the seven-a-side Mini Football World Cup in Dubai,” said Ishaq. “We will also be looking out for the future of these players and they will get either a scholarship or a job offer.”

    Not an easy journey

    Pakistan’s poor security situation means international sport in the country has come to a virtual standstill, so it comes as no surprise that the World Group had its work cut out in their bid to bring these players to Pakistan.

    “Yes we did face a few problems convincing these players to come to Pakistan,” admitted Ishaq. “The unfortunate blast in Lahore took place just two days before we signed Ronaldinho, so it wasn’t easy to bring the players here. The army helped us a lot by offering to provide the players security for these matches.”

    Doubts still hang over the participation of Chelsea legend Terry and Ronaldinho’s opposite captain, despite less than a week remaining to the games.

    Concerns over security were not the only hurdle though. “Pakistan lacks even the most basic footballing infrastructure,” added Shahzeb. “The players wanted to send their agents so that they could look at the football grounds where they will be playing, but we didn’t have even a single ground in Karachi that we could show them. That is why we have had to have the Karachi game at a hockey ground.”

    It has been hard work but the duo believe it is not them who are to be credited for pulling this off, but the man behind the vision. “None of this would have been possible without World Group Chairman Mehmood Trunkwala,” said Ishaq. “This is his vision and he is the one backing it.”

    Many will write them off even before they have truly begun but Leisure Leagues is about to take one huge stride in their ambitious vision of turning cricket-mad Pakistan into football country. Ronaldinho and friends are coming to town.
  5. chandtara

    chandtara Mr Cricistan

    Jun 18, 2011
    Pakistan has immense talent in football, says Ryan Giggs


    LAHORE: Pakistan is safe country and has immense talent in football, said a group of footballers led by Brazilian legend Ronaldinho who are currently on a visit to promote the sport in the nation.

    The iconic footballers addressed a press conference in Lahore ahead of their second exhibition match. Former Manchester United and England mid-fielder Ryan Giggs said that Pakistan is a safe country and international players should come here. “We want to give a message that Pakistan is safe country to visit.”

    Giggs also said Pakistan immense talent in football. “Football is huge here especially with the younger generation,” he said thanking for the hospitality and saying that they know more about Pakistan now than just cricket.

    “Pakistan is good place to come and the there is love for football here,” he said and raised slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’.

    However, Riggs said that Pakistan needs to invest in the best infrastructure and coaches to come which will make the sport flourish to the next level.

    “Pakistan is ranked like 200. So you need the best infrastructure and coaches to take it forward,” he said reminding that coaches should not bring their philosophy but instead look at the football culture here.

    He said that it is difficult to make an conclusion from just one one match, but the young players have the dedication and passion, but require more discipline in their game.

    Ronaldinho speaking in Portugese said he immensely enjoyed his stay here and thank the organisers for the arrangements. French striker Robert Pires also called for the need to improve football infrastructure in the country.

    The footballers received a rapturous welcome on arrival in Lahore. They were escorted by military personnel to a local hotel amidst tight security. There are strict fool-proof security arrangement at the Fortress Stadium where the match is being played. The parking space is made at a distance while fans will be shuttled to the stadium.

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