by Alam Zeb Safi
LAHORE: The 2022 FIFA World Cup Trophy was brought here early Tuesday from Uzbekistan via a special jet and unveiled formally.
The 1998 World Cup winner, two-time Champions League and European Championship winner Christian Karembeu of France dazzled the stage to unveil the iconic trophy in front of a sizeable audience at a local hotel.
The trophy, which was also put on display for public later Tuesday evening, leaves for Bangladesh early on Wednesday (today).
“This trophy has magic because it travels all around the world and today it is yours,” Karembeu said.
This was the second time on the trot that the iconic trophy was hosted by Pakistan. In early 2018, too, the trophy had toured Pakistan.
Also present were federal secretary for IPC Ahmed Hanif Orakzai, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Director General Col (retd) Mohammad Asif Zaman, Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) Secretary General Khalid Mehmood and Sports Board Punjab (SBP) Director General Javed Chohan. Speaking on the occasion, Orakzai said that the government is determined to take solid steps for the development of sports in the country.
“We are aware of the grassroots problems confronting our sports but let me assure you that our current minister is taking keen interest in the development of sports,” Orakzai said.
He said that the sports policy is being refined. “We are updating and refining the sports policy of Pakistan (2005-2022) and we have taken all the stakeholders on board just to have ownership in this policy formulation. A sizeable budget has also been allocated for the development and management of sports,” Orakzai said.
Karembeu handed over a momento and a trophy from FIFA to Orakzai. He also handed over momentos to Pakistan’s star players Saddam Hussain and Kaleemullah.
Earlier, the trophy was received at the Allama Iqbal International Airport by Pakistan women team captain Hajra Khan and Fahad Ashraf, vice-president Coca Cola Pakistan-Afghanistan. Coca Cola is handling the trophy’s global tour.
Speaking to media at the airport, Karembeu said that he was extremely happy to have toured Pakistan again. “Always a privilege for me to come here and to visit people and of course to bring the best trophy of the world. It is a unique trophy, the World Cup trophy,” Karembeu said.
“This year we are waiting for the World Cup in Qatar. Every kid in the world wants to see and of course we are to respect those dreams and I know that everything is magical when we have this close-up view,” said Karembeu, also a former Real Madrid player.
Karembeu recalled an overwhelming reception four years ago here. “Last time incredible enthusiasm was there and I was amazed and thanks again for the warm welcome today and also four years ago. For me one of the best memories of that tour was that 15000 people came to see the trophy and it was pleasant to see. They want to see football and trophy,” said Karembeu.
He said that Pakistan can join the galaxy of world’s top teams if they keep playing consistent football.
“They need to play games, not to stop and to believe that there is always hope and of course we will find a solution to make it happen,” said Karembeu.
Calling holders France the hot favourites, Karembeu named five other nations who could finish at the top. “Of course France are still favourites. This time it will be different because the World Cup is going to be held in November and December. But I think same teams will be in the top finals like Brazil, France, Germany and I hope one Asian and one African team,” Karembeu said.