By Assam Sani, FPDC Correspondent, Lahore
What started back in 2006 by Coca Cola, a long term partner and sponsor of FIFA has now become a tradition that happens before every football world cup ever since. The FIFA world cup trophy tour is a celebration of the beautiful game that starts a few months before the actual event and goes on until the event starts, giving the fans all over the world a chance to see perhaps the most iconic trophy in sports across the globe.
The campaign started with the aim of taking the trophy around the globe to different cities and meeting excited fans all over world and giving them a rare chance to be up close and personal with a trophy that is so prestigious that only world cup winners or heads of state can lift in their own hands.
In its inaugural tour in 2006 before the world cup in Germany the trophy was taken around 29 different countries. Coca Cola and FIFA then stepped up their game for the second tour and before the start of the 2010 FIFA world cup in South Africa, which was the first ever world cup in Africa, the trophy had gone through 84 countries. 50 of these countries had been in Africa and close to 1 million fans got a chance to see the trophy.
In 2014, in just 267 days, the trophy had been to 90 countries and this time over a million fans had the opportunity to see the trophy yet only the world cup winners and heads of states touched it. A mammoth feat indeed that is not easy to pull off.
Dubai, Cape Town, Rome, Paris, New York, Beijing and Tokyo are only a handful of cities that the FIFA world cup trophy is either going to or has been in the fourth and latest installment of the tour before the world cup, during which the trophy will travel through 50 different countries across 6 continents around the globe before going to Russia right before the start of the world cup.
Only this time, Pakistan was added to the list as well as the trophy landed in Lahore on the 3rd of February and made its way to the Pearl Continental hotel where it was unveiled in front of the media and an exclusive crowd consisting of dignitaries, the men’s and women’s national football teams, disabled athletes, celebrities and others invited to take a look at the prestigious trophy.
In a small and exclusive ceremony the football players and athletes were honored for their performances and presence before the trophy was walked on to the stage by the French international world cup winner Christian Karembeu. As the ceremony ended, the trophy then made its way to the Coke Fest that was being held in Lake City, Lahore for the public to see where a massive crowd of thousands had gathered to see the trophy.
As Karembeu walked on to the stage for the second time that day holding the trophy, the massive crowd around the stage full of football fanatics, who had traveled to see the trophy not just from inside the city but from other cities as well, erupted in such a roar that showed the real passion for football that Pakistanis have. A passion that even though has the backing of a lot of potential from our streets to our stadiums but has failed to translate into honors and trophies on the international stage.
And perhaps the real reason why, not just Lahoris but, football fans all over Pakistan were this excited about the trophy tour and having to see the trophy land in our country is that despite the dismal performances of our teams and the federation we are being included in a tour like this and being acknowledged as a nation that loves the beautiful game means and we are not yet forgotten or being overlooked.
Perhaps we are not completely down and out just yet. Perhaps events like these are the jump start that football in Pakistan needs. These events, apart from being a high honor, show that we are still acknowledged for our passion for the sport and that passion can perhaps one day see us make it to the world cup not just as fans but with our Shaheens actually playing in the tournament.