Football legends Ricardo Kaka and Luis Figo arrived in Karachi on Thursday to officially kick off World Soccer Stars 2019 in the country.
The World Soccer Stars 2019 will see two Kaka and Figo-led sides play matches in Karachi and Lahore from April 26 and 29.
Speaking at a ceremony at Karachi's Pearl Continental Hotel, Figo — who came on stage holding a bat — said: "I feel a warm welcome from everybody; there is great passion for football [in Pakistan]."
"We'll come with 10 legends in April to play a match," he said, inviting Pakistan football coach Jose Antonio Nogueira on to the stage.
Kaka thanked people for the warm welcome, saying it was his first visit to Pakistan. "I have a great impression of this country and its people."
A number of sportsmen, including Pakistan captain Saddam Hussain and midfielder Saadullah, as well as media personalities attended the event. Hussain brought Pakistan's football jersey for Kaka and Figo. "It will be an honour for me if they accept my gift," he said.
When a reporter pointed out to the host that the captain hadn't been called on to stage, Hussain joined Figo and Kaka and presented the Pakistan jersey, thanking the duo for coming to Pakistan.
Figo was asked whether he supported Real Madrid or Barcelona. "It's an easy question; I'm a member of Real Madrid."
When asked which of the two Ronaldos — Cristiano or the Brazilian footballer — was better, Figo chose not to compare the two. "Normally I don't compare players because of different styles. And if you choose one, it seems the other is not important. I have played with both. I can't choose one."
Figo said his advice to aspiring footballers was to work hard,.adding that "it's important that the government creates opportunities."
Kaka acknowledged that football was not as popular as cricket in Pakistan. "But we think the door is opening. "The advice is to keep dreaming and run after your dream. A lot of people don't do that," he added.
Answering a question regarding opening football academies in Pakistan, Kaka said he has a small project that he is starting in Brazil. "If it works, then we will bring the project to Pakistan as well."
Earlier, the event's host Bilal Ashraf introduced TouchSky Group CEO Ahmer Kunwar, who said Figo and Kaka have made a commitment to bring "authentic international football to Pakistan".
"It won't be easy but we're here to tell you that football can come to Pakistan," said Kunwar. "We have begun a journey from 10 different parts of the world."
“It’s a pinnacle concept promoting football, music, culture, tourism and all underpinned by presenting Pakistan’s soft image globally”.
At the end of the event, it was announced that American musician Akon will also be visiting Pakistan soon as part of the planned events in April.
Welcomed in Karachi
The former Real Madrid superstars arrived in the port city in the afternoon. They tweeted a message for Pakistani fans prior to boarding their Karachi-bound flight.
They had announced their planned visit of Pakistan last week through video snippets.
“It’s excited to see another emerging country in Asia embrace football," Figo had said in a video announcement of his visit to Pakistan. "I’m certain in a population of 220 million there must be huge potential waiting to emerge into the international scene.”
“I am delighted to visit Pakistan and play an instrumental role in promoting and helping football in the country. I have never been to Pakistan so I am really excited to come and play football whilst helping unearth hidden talent,” said Kaka, who retired from professional football in 2017.
The duo are being brought by TouchSky Group, a UK-based player and event management company, which also brought Ronaldinho and several others stars to the country in 2017 in another exhibition event.