Preparations gain pace as football stars set to dazzle fans [The News]

Preparations gain pace as football stars set to dazzle fans [The News]

KARACHI: The preparations are in full swing for the exhibition match of Brazilian star Ronaldinho and Friends on July 8 here at the Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium, formerly known as the Hockey Club of Pakistan (HCP).

The galaxy of foreign legends will also play a game at the National Hockey Stadium in Lahore on July 9.

The venue here at Karachi is being renovated. This correspondent saw on Saturday that the chairs in the main enclosures and the grills around the venue had been painted. An organiser said that the washrooms would also be made ready in a couple of days.

Ronaldinho will be accompanied by his 2002 World Cup winning squad fellow Roberto Carlos, former French midfielder Robert Pires, France’s Nicolas Anelka, Portugal’s Luis Boa Morte, Holland’s Goerge Boateng, England’s David James and former Manchester United player Ryan Giggs who has replaced former England and Chelsea captain John Terry who has pulled out due to personal reasons.

‘The News’ learnt that Ronaldinho and company will reach Karachi on July 8. There will be a press conference soon after their arrival. Sources said that the touring party would then go to the stadium and there will be a short opening ceremony followed by a match under floodlights.

Sources said that the match will be of 90 minutes duration, having three sessions of 30 minutes each.

Two teams will be formed which will have four foreign players each. Three players each besides three substitutes each would be inducted into these teams from the best crop of Leisure Leagues Pakistan and Pakistan’s former and current international players.

One team will be led by Ronaldinho and the other will be captained by Ryan Giggs.

Sources said that former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa, Kaleemullah, Saddam Hussain and Saadullah will also play besides a few Denmark-based players which also include international gloveman Yousuf Butt and Pakistan’s skipper Hassan Bashir.

On Sunday (today), here at a function, the organisers will announce the names of Pakistani players who will be part of the exhibition matches to be held in the two largest cities of the country.

The tickets have also been put on sale on Saturday and sources said that the price range from Rs2000 up to Rs12,500. Some boxes are also being prepared in the venue which would be put on sale, a source said.

The capacity of Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium is 24,000. To a query that whether some people would also be allowed to witness the game free of cost, an organiser said that it will be decided after seeing the demand of the public.

The foreign legends are arriving at a time when football is inactive in Pakistan for the last couple of years because of a tussle between the FIFA-recognised Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) and Arshad Lodhi Group.

Former international athlete Mohammad Talib said that the tour of foreign stars would motivate the youth of the country.

“Their presence in Pakistan would be of a lot of value. It will certainly have a message for the youth and will motivate them. It will not only boost Pakistan’s image but will help its football in the future,” Talib told ‘The News’ here at his fitness centre in the vicinity of the Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium.

Published in The News, 2 July 2017