KARACHI: While refusing to disclose the specific dates of Ronaldinho’s arrival because of security issues, the organisers of the Leisure League on Thursday said that the mega global star would come after Eid-ul-Fitr.
The former Brazilian attacking midfielder had also disclosed in a twitter message the other day that he would come in July.
The 36-year-old Barcelona ambassador would also be accompanied by other international stars, including former England goalkeeper David James and former Dutch player George Boateng who is serving as technical director of the Kelantan FA playing in the Malaysia Super League.
Pakistan’s top players of the Leisure League will get an opportunity to play with the Ronaldinho-led side in an exhibition match during his visit.
“We will pick the best players from the three-month Leisure League in Pakistan and they will get an opportunity to play with the stars in an exhibition game,” Leisure League Pakistan Chief Operating Officer Syed Mohammad Ishaq Shah said.
“We will create a nation-wide footprint for football and promote the game at grassroots level giving hope to many enthusiasts. Ronaldinho will be here to kick-off our mission,” Shah said.
Also present at the briefing were Leisure League England chief Tim Ollerenshaw, Purtuguese coach Luis Rodrigues who has signed a deal with the organsiers for the whole project in Pakistan, CEO of TouchSky Group Ahmer Kunwar, representatives of World Group which is handling the whole project, former Test cricketer Javed Miandad, hockey Olympian Islahuddin Siddiqui, squash legend Jehangir Khan, former DG Rangers Lt Gen (retd) Javed Zia who is also an advisor of the Leisure League, Shehzad Ali of Motriyal Holdings, former Pakistan football stars Col Changezi, Ali Nawaz Baloch, Mohammad Essa, Kaleemullah and woman footballer Hajra Khan.
While responding to a question, Ishaq Shah said that the member of Brazil 2002 World Cup winning-squad had struck a long-term deal with the Leisure League.
“It is not just limited to one trip but we have secured a deal with him for a long term,” Ishaq said.
About the Leisure League Pakistan, Ishaq said: “Around four million people are attached with football in Pakistan. We will have to provide infrastructure. Currently we are focusing on Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore and 40 pitches have already been finalised.”
“In Punjab we are at an advanced stage of negotiations with the Punjab government and around 400 grounds would be prepared,” the official said.
“The league will not only be limited to only three cities but we will expand it to 23 different cities of Pakistan,” he added.
He said very soon a UK club would also be visiting Pakistan to play with a club of the Leisure League. “We want our teams to go abroad and also want foreign teams to come to Pakistan. We would also like to have our team in the World Cup,” Ishaq said.
He said that the organisers would also send the best players on scholarship for education abroad. “May be we don’t achieve all targets in totality but we will try our level best to give our solid input which will bring a social change in Pakistan,” he said.
He said that training and coaching academies would also be built in the country.
Tim said that the initiative would benefit Pakistan a lot.
Chairman of World Group Mehmood Trunkwala said: “We will revive football in Pakistan and fulfill the dreams of millions of football fanatics by bringing a team from across the world for a sports event this country will never forget.” Javed Miandad and Jehangir Khan also termed the initiative positive.