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'Ronaldinho and friends' to play exhibition matches in Pakistan

  • Published at 06:30 pm July 7th, 2017
  • Last updated at 08:34 pm July 7th, 2017
'Ronaldinho and friends' to play exhibition matches in Pakistan
Brazilian legend Ronaldinho will appear with seven other former international footballers in two exhibition matches in Pakistan this weekend in the hope of developing more players in the cricket-mad country. The 37-year-old, who won the World Player of the Year twice and was part of the 2002 World Cup winning team, said he is on a goodwill mission aimed at inducing youngsters to play the game.
"I am excited at the prospect of playing in Pakistan. This is a great opportunity for us to induce youngsters in Pakistan and we will do our best to do that," he said in a statement.
The 'Ronaldinho and friends' line-up is completed by his countryman Roberto Carlos, former Manchester United stalwart Ryan Giggs, former England goalkeeper David James, retired Dutch star George Boateng, former French internationals Robert Pires and Nicolas Anelka, and Portuguese player Luis Boa Morte. Giggs, who retired after a long career with United in 2014, said he was "privileged" to take part. He replaced former England and Chelsea captain John Terry, who pulled out due to new commitments with English side Aston Villa. Pakistani organisers hope to promote football and signal that security for international sports teams has improved in the country since the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009. "Our aim is to promote football and this is the first of many steps," said Ishaq Shah, CEO of Leisure League, a subsidiary of World Group which is organising the visit. "We want to give a positive image of Pakistan through sports." The Pakistani Army is set to provide security for the players in and around hotels, airports and at the two stadiums over the weekend. Pakistan boasted a top place in Asian football until the early 1970s, but a lack of government support and poor infrastructure helped push them to as low as 200th in the FIFA world rankings. The game is growing in popularity once more, however, even in a country obsessed with cricket. "It's a great occasion," said Pakistan team captain Kaleem Ullah, who also played for Sacramento Republic FC in USA and Kyrgyzstan's FC Dordoi Bishkek. He will take part in one of the matches. Fans in the football-mad Lyari neighbourhood of Karachi said they had spent their savings on tickets. "I want to have a glimpse of Ronaldinho," said young fan Mohammad Essa.
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