Karachi (AFP) – Brazilian football legend Ronaldinho is set to visit Pakistan as part of a goodwill mission to promote the game in the cricket-mad country.
The recently retired 36-year-old, who won the World Player of the Year twice and was part of the 2002 World Cup winning team, issued a short video message on Twitter saying simply “Pakistan, I am coming” as he unfurled a Pakistani flag.
News of Ronaldinho’s visit has generated excitement among fans, and comes as the South Asian nation seeks to revive international sports fixtures that were disrupted by a militant attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team in 2009.
Those efforts were given a boost when the country successfully staged the final of its Pakistan Super League cricket tournament in Lahore earlier this month, a rare match featuring prominent international sports stars.
Ronaldinho is being brought to the country by UK-based Leisure Leagues — organisers of 5, 6 and 7-a-side tournaments which recently announced plans to expand to Pakistan.
Shahrukh Sohail, a Pakistan representative for the company confirmed the visit Tuesday, adding the company would be launching tournaments next month in Pakistan’s major cities Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore.
He declined to say whether the Brazilian would arrive in time to make an appearance.
Cricket-obsessed Pakistan has a strong base of football fans and players, particularly in southwestern Balochistan and the southern city of Karachi.
But its national team has struggled in recent decades and has fallen to a lowly 198th place in the FIFA rankings.
Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) officials were involved in court wranglings against each other for the last two years, forcing the men’s and women’s teams out of international competitions.
The Lahore High Court last month decided in favour of recognising Faisal Saleh Hayat as the federation’s chief, a post he has held on-and-off since 2003 without being able to turn around the team’s fortunes.
Earlier this month, Spanish giants Barcelona announced their former star would return to act as an ambassador for the club.