Former Manchester United and Wales winger Ryan Giggs said on Sunday he was impressed with Pakistan youngsters’ love for soccer after seven iconic footballers, also including Ronaldinho, featured in a rare two-game exhibition series in the country.
“Football is huge here especially with the younger generation,” Giggs said.
Thousands of football fans watched the stars in two seven-a-side matches at Karachi and Lahore. The games were also broadcast live by state-owned Pakistan Television and private television channel Geo Super.
Ronaldinho 7 defeated Giggs 7 in both matches, securing the winner’s trophy for the Brazilian after he led his team to a 2-0 victory in Lahore on Sunday.
Dutchman George Boateng, former France internationals Robert Pires and Nicolas Anelka, former England goalkeeper David James and Portugal’s Luis Boa Morte were the other foreign players.
The tour was organized by a private company, World Group, aiming to promote football in Pakistan, which is the No. 200-ranked team out of 211, according to the sport’s world governing body FIFA.
The lack of infrastructure for soccer in Pakistan was made evident by the fact that the first match at Karachi on Saturday night was played on an astro turf pitch in a hockey stadium.
And it was also pointed out by Giggs.
“I think Pakistan are at 200 in the world, so to bring it down you need infrastructure and also the best coaches in the world to teach the players how to play,” Giggs said.
Security had been a major concern for foreign teams traveling to Pakistan over the past eight years since terrorists attacked a Sri Lanka cricket team bus at Lahore in 2009. Only Zimbabwe’s cricketers played a short three-match one-day international series in Lahore in 2015 since.
Pakistani soldiers provided security for the seven footballers during the tour.
“We want to give a message that Pakistan is a safe country to visit,” Giggs said in the presence of an armed escort.
After the second game, Ronaldinho posted a photo with the trophy and a one-minute video on Twitter. “Thanks Karachi! Thanks Pakistan!” he said in the message.