Umaid Wasim – DAWN
After a day of tiki taka in which Diego Maradona compared the Argentina Football Association (AFA) to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) and the PFF Marketing Consultant Sardar Naveed Haider Khan replied with a tongue-in-cheek comment that the Argentina legend should come visit Pakistan, it has come down to this.
Maradona is willing to come to Pakistan.
In a communication between Sardar Naveed and Maradona’s manager Gustavo Amador Moure, shared with Dawn.com, the latter has asked the PFF to send an official invitation for the 53-year-old football great.
“We would wait for the mandate from the PFF to schedule a meeting with Diego’s lawyer and advance this situation as soon as possible,” Moure, of the ABC Sports Agency, says in his e-mail.
“Diego knows something [about Pakistan] as Ahmer Kunwar [of British-based sports management company TouchSky Sports] spoke to me about the possibility of doing something with him in Pakistan.”
So far, it’s a stunning development.
And if it does happen, Sardar Naveed believes it will be huge for football in Pakistan.
“Football in Pakistan is in need of help and support,” Sardar Naveed told Dawn.com.
“What better help can there be than a player of Maradona’s stature coming to Pakistan,” he asks.
“He’s regarded as one of the greatest players to have played the game of football.
“Not only that, but he enjoys great popularity in Pakistan.
“Imagine what were to happen if he would arrive at the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport in Karachi or the Allama Iqbal Airport in Lahore.
“Fans would throng by the thousands just to get a glimpse of him.
“The interest that would create for football in the country, especially the interest in Pakistani football, would be immense.”
Sardar Naveed added that the PFF would be sending the official invitation to Maradona very soon and urged the government to play their part in making it happen.
“This is an opportunity for the government of Pakistan to step in and make it happen for the growth of football in Pakistan,” he said.
Maradona has previously been to the sub-continent – both times to India – and has been treated to rapturous welcomes on his arrival.
He first came to India in 2008 when he set up a football academy in Kolkata with his latest visit there coming in 2012 when he launched a jewelry store in Kerala.
His visit to Pakistan, though, would be solely for football.
“It would be massive for the country’s football if Maradona were to come to Pakistan,” Pakistan’s most decorated football coach Tariq Lutfi told Dawn.com.
“Even if he was to come for a day and spend some time with our national players, that would motivate them to a new level.”
Maradona, who spearheaded Argentina to the 1986 FIFA World Cup, is the honourary sports ambassador for the Dubai Sports Council (DSC).
He coached Dubai-based club Al Wasl for a year before he was fired in 2012. He was also Argentina’s coach in the 2010 FIFA World Cup where they were knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals.
So far it seems Maradona’s arrival would come through a collaboration between the PFF and TouchSky Sports.
TouchSky Sports are UEFA-licensed match agents and were behind an initiative to arrange a series between the football teams of Pakistan and India in England in 2011.
The series never took place after TouchSky Sports cited they hadn’t received adequate money from the sponsors to hold the series titled ‘Clash of the Titans’.