KARACHI:Football icons Ricardo Kaka and Luis Figo landed in Pakistan earlier last week to promote World Soccer Stars 2019, which is set to take place in Karachi and Lahore in April this year.
The duo arrived in Karachi first, where they held a press conference, and then traveled to Lahore, sharing that they were happy the sport was finally picking up pace in Pakistan. While promoting football in the country and finding hidden talent in a place where cricket seems to trump all other sports, some things, unfortunately, seemed to have gone wrong:
1. Our national football team was sidelined
When you invite famous football players to your country, you would think it right to push your local talent forward as well. But that apparently didn’t seem to happen during Kaka and Figo’s visit to Karachi. Captain of Pakistan’s football team Saddam Hussain is said to have been initially just asked to be seated in the crowd with his teammates instead of sharing the stage with the duo. It wasn’t until one journalist urged organisers to ask him to come on stage and introduce himself to Kaka and Figo. For an event where you ask international football icons to promote the sport in your country, making the captain of the national team be a mere spectator was a low-blow. Thanks to that kind journalist who didn’t forget about Hussain.
2. Female footballers were uninvited?
Now we all know a woman’s work always seems to get ignored in a man’s world. And that is exactly what happened at the press conference as well. Captain of Pakistan’s women’s football team, Hajra Khan, was not a part of the event. Odd, isn’t it? Well, it turns out that she was initially invited to the event but then uninvited. Khan tweeted, “That’s the respect national football players get in this country. I was invited to the event and then uninvited because the organisers decided to ‘cut down the guest list’. Disappointing that every other person I am speaking to had attended. Shameful.”
She added, “I refuse to be associated with any such organisation or event that claims to ‘promote and develop football in Pakistan’ and disrespect national athletes with their money-making stints. Second time now. Thank you for coming to Pakistan Kaka and Figo. Hope to see more of you.”
3. Kaka, Figo posed with an alleged sexual harasser
As Kaka and Figo made their way to Lahore, there was yet another controversy awaiting them. The duo posed with Ali Zafar – who has been accused by singer Meesha Shafi and multiple other women of sexual harassment.
While this is of no fault of the players, who probably were unaware of the case, organisers or fans could have warned them about people they should be staying away from. Writer Bina Shah tweeted, “Last year Ali Zafar was accused of sexual harassment and used everything in his power to shut down the accusations. Kaka and Figo probably didn’t know that when this photo was taken. Hope they’ll speak out now.”
Journalist Manal Faheem Khan wrote that they should have been warned before taking the picture. She wrote, “WOW. Didn’t anyone brief Kaka on who he shouldn’t be rubbing his shoulders with?”
4. Football star, legends, heroes … were asked to show their cricketing skills
While the press conference was about promoting football in the country, Kaka and Figo were asked to posed with a cricket bat and showcase their cricketing skills. Say what?! Why would you invite world-renowned footballers players to Pakistan to promote their sport if you had to hand them cricket gear? Franchise manager of Pakistan Super League, Islamabad United, Rehan ul Haq, was disappointed at how the two stars were asked to pose with a cricket bat. He wrote, “I find it extremely disrespectful to football followers in Pakistan, when superstars like Kaka, Figo have to show their cricketing skills for validation. Trust me people in Pakistan know what football is, understand it, watch it and enjoy it.”
He continued, “I don’t mind cross platform promotions, something like Shahid Afridi trying to play football and Kaka trying his hand at cricket but this entire narrative of Pakistani public not understanding any sport other than cricket is flawed, stupid and extremely naive. Finally I hope this venture shows sponsors/broadcasters how big football has become in Pakistan. It is the largest growing sport in our country, that’s a fact not an opinion.”
The company that organised the event is yet to make a statement. Cutacut has reached out to a representative in this regard.