Made-in-Pakistan footballs and a representative on the FIFA disciplinary committee will represent Pakistan’s contribution to the world’s most-watched sporting event — the FIFA World Cup.
But according to Brazilian Ambassador Alfredo Leoni, there is potential for cooperation between Brazil and Pakistan in terms of football coaching and training — a transfer of skills that might one day see the Pakistan national team qualify for the world’s biggest sporting contest.
Just three weeks before the global tournament begins in Brazil on June 12, the Brazilian embassy in Islamabad on Thursday continued its series of activities to celebrate the World Cup’s arrival with the inauguration of a football photo exhibition at the Marriott Hotel.
Ambassador Leoni, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) President Faisal Saleh Hayat, PFF Women Wing President Senator Rubina Irfan and Marriott Hotel Islamabad Regional General Manager Hartmut Noack inaugurated the exhibition.
The exhibition features 24 photographs by Brazilian sports photojournalist Jorge Rodrigues, who, according to the embassy, has been photographing football for over 20 years and will also be on the job during the upcoming tournament. The photos capture players in action and crowd reactions from Brazil premier club tournament, Campeonato Brasileiro, and from last year’s Confederations Cup.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Leoni said that the embassy helped send a Pakistani coach to Brazil for training two years ago. He said that football has become an expensive sport and there were budget constraints.
“But there is always room for cooperation,” Leoni said. “We can perhaps send a team of footballers from Pakistan for training in Brazil and we are willing to collaborate.”
The photo exhibition, which runs until the World Cup final on July 13, will be accompanied by live screening of World Cup football matches at Marriott’s Nadia Café and other dedicated viewing areas, said Noack.
Noack said the matches will start at 9pm, midnight and 3am — a little late by Islamabad standards. But Noack said the late hours might be suitable for the Pakistani football fans during the month of Ramadan, which also falls in June-July this year.
Ambassador Leoni said the idea behind this embassy-hotel joint endeavour was to make the “World Cup more comfortable for Pakistani fans.” The embassy has also published a brochure, Leoni said, which gives the schedule of the World Cup matches in Pakistan Standard Time and provides details of the 12 World Cup venues in Brazil.
The ambassador said it was a matter of “great pride” that the World Cup footballs were provided by a Pakistani company, giving Pakistan a “connection” with the global contest.
The official match ball for the competition, the Adidas Brazuca, has been produced by Forward Sports, a Sialkot-based football manufacturer.
Leoni also appreciated the Pakistani team that won bronze at the Street Child World Cup in Brazil in April.
PFF President Hayat said the football World Cup was by far the biggest sporting spectacle in the world. He said Brazil hosting the World Cup was “poetic justice because Brazil was synonymous with football.”
Some Pakistanis will watch the matches in Brazil on the limited quota of tickets provided by FIFA to non-qualifying member countries, he said.
“But I am sure millions in Pakistan will be glued to their TV screens,” Hayat said.
PFF Member Nayyar Hasnain will represent Pakistan in the management of the World Cup as a member of the FIFA disciplinary committee, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2014.