by Alam Zeb Safi
LAHORE: Although Pakistan is facing international isolation in football due to sanctions from FIFA, the country will still feel proud as it is set to receive the 2022 FIFA World Cup Trophy here at the Allama Iqbal International Airport on Tuesday (today).
The trophy, being brought by FIFA ambassador and the 1998 FIFA World Cup winner Christian Karembeu of France, will arrive here for a one-day stop in Pakistan at 11am. Pakistan women football team captain Hajra Khan, Vice-President Coca Cola Pakistan-Afghanistan Region Fahad Ashraf and Vice-President of Marketing Coca Cola EME Claudio Navarro will receive the trophy at the airport, the organisers said.
The trophy will be unveiled at a local hotel. Federal secretary IPC Ahmed Hanif Orakzai will grace the occasion as chief guest. It was also learnt that soon after this segment there will be an event named “Unsung Heroes” which will be attended by Karachi United footballers. It will be followed by a display of the trophy for the public.
Pakistan football captain Saddam Hussain has termed the FIFA World Cup Trophy tour to Pakistan a big boost for the country’s “soft image”. “It’s a moment of pride for all of us to be hosting the World Cup Trophy,” Saddam told ‘The News’ in a formal chat here on Monday. Saddam is one of the guests invited by the organisers. “It will at least make the people of Pakistan feel the coming World Cup,” Saddam said.
In early 2018, when the FIFA World Cup Trophy visited Lahore, Pakistan was suspended by FIFA for third party interference. And now when the 2022 FIFA World Cup Trophy is set to arrive here, again Pakistan is suspended.
“It’s really painful that Pakistan has been banned by FIFA for third party interference,” Saddam said. Former Pakistan captain Kaleemullah told this correspondent that the World Cup Trophy Pakistan’s tour is a big initiative. “It’s a huge initiative from Coca Cola,” said Kaleem. “It will help promote the game in Pakistan despite the fact that the country is suspended,” Kaleem said.
A highly credible source told ‘The News’ that the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee has not been invited to attend the unveiling ceremony. After a day’s stop-over the trophy will leave Pakistan on Wednesday (tomorrow).