by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: Brazil football legend Ronaldinho has announced he will be coming to Pakistan, the former Barcelona superstar breaking the news on Sunday in a short video on social media.
“Pakistan, I’m coming,” says the 36-year-old in the video shared across his verified accounts as he unfurls the Pakistan flag.
Ronaldinho’s trip will be arranged by Leisure Leagues Pakistan.
“Ladies & Gentlemen, it’s official!” they said on their Facebook page. “We’re proud to announce that we will be bringing Ronaldinho Gaúcho to Pakistan.”
Leisure Leagues, the United Kingdom-based organiser of five-, six- and seven-a-side football, came to Pakistan after World Group acquired the franchise and the rights to launch it in the country.
More announcements are to be made in a news conference here this week but sources close to the matter told Dawn that the 2002 FIFA World Cup winner would be captaining a World XI side against Pakistan XI side in an exhibition match here at the National Stadium in July.
Ronaldinho hasn’t played since he left Fluminense after a two-month stint in July 2015 and he met officials from World Group in Dubai over the weekend.
Also involved in the deal bringing him to Pakistan are Touchsky Group.
TouchSky’s sports wing 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’.
They were also in talks to bring Argentine football legend Diego Maradona to Pakistan in 2014 but that also did not materialise.
Part of Brazil’s famous attacking trident at the 2002 World Cup involving Ronaldo and Rivaldo, Ronaldinho became the world’s undisputed best when he joined La Liga giants Barcelona from Paris St Germain in 2003.
He won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2004 and 2005 while also winning the Ballon d’Or in 2005, apart from leading the Catalan club to the UEFA Champions League title in 2006.
His form dipped in his later seasons with Barca before he joined Italian powerhouses AC Milan.
The dip in form saw Ronaldinho being omitted from Brazil’s 2010 World Cup squad and although he showed flashes of his former brilliance at Brazilian club Atletico Miniero, helping them to the Copa Libertadores title — South American equivalent of the Champions League — in 2013, he wasn’t able to earn an international recall when the World Cup came to his homeland in 2014.
He then joined Mexican club Queretaro for a season before winding down his career at Rio de Janeiro’s Fluminense.
Ronaldinho took part in the Indian Futsal League last year and left after just two games following his appointment as the brand ambassador of the Paralympic Games in Rio in July.