by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: The much-anticipated visit of icons Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Ryan Giggs and others to Pakistan for an exhibition futsal match has sent the country’s millions of football fans in a state of frenzy.
No one wants to miss out on the literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch such legendary footballers showcase their otherworldly skills with their own eyes and in their own backyard.
So imagine what the excitement level will be for the select few who will also get to share the football field with Ronaldinho & Friends.
National footballers Saddam Hussain, Essa Khan and Muhammad Rasool are three of the lucky 15 who have been chosen for the honour, and as expected, they’re losing their minds.
“How does it feel like to play with your hero, with your idol, I can’t stop thinking about it,” midfielder Hussain, a lifelong fan of Ronaldinho who will get to play with the Brazilian on July 8 in Karachi — the first of the two games organised by Leisure League Pakistan (LLP), told The Express Tribune.
While growing up in Karachi and playing football on streets, Hussain had never thought that a day will come when he will get to rub shoulders with World Cup-winner Dinho, who at his peak was considered the world’s best footballer.
“I had to pinch myself when I found out I would get to meet Ronaldinho and all these international superstars, but now that I’ve been told I will also be in his team…it is more than my mind can process,” admitted Hussain. “We grew up watching Ronaldinho on our TV screens. He is an inspiration to all of us.”
Hussain reserved special praise for World Group for making the impossible happen “Our football is in tatters and even in better days it wasn’t our primary sport so I must thank the World Group for bringing in these international players.”
Former Pakistan captain Essa, who will also be Ronaldinho’s teammate in the game in Karachi, is just as ecstatic.
“I never thought I would get to be on the same field as all these legends,” he said. “It’s like a dream-come-true situation. World Group and Trunkwala family have managed to do the unthinkable. This will not only boost confidence of our youth but also present a softer image of Pakistan.
“I hope we really benefit from this. It is a unique opportunity not just for us players but also for Pakistan. I hope this event gets the message out that we have talent in Pakistan and that this game can also be lucrative in Pakistan.”
Same was the case with K-Electric striker Rasool, who was at a loss of words when asked to describe his feelings.
“It is surreal,” said the Chitral-based forward. “I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think I’ve been this happy about football before.”