LAHORE: The Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup trophy arrived in Pakistan’s cultural heart of Lahore on Tuesday, Pakistani media reported, ahead of the mega sports event in Qatar in November this year.
And just like four years ago, when it made its first trip to Pakistan, the country remains a pariah for international football.
Pakistan has been under FIFA suspension since April last year, a prolongation of the crisis the country’s football has faced since 2015. Since the last visit of the World Cup trophy, the national team has played just seven international matches. Two of those matches put Pakistan out of the qualifying race for this year’s World Cup in Qatar, for which the Trophy Tour is being held.
FIFA World Cup winner and legendary defender Christian Karembeu accompanied the trophy, providing fans in the South Asian nation with an opportunity to see the iconic goldware.
Pakistan is one of the 51 countries that the FIFA World Cup trophy will tour this year. The trophy will stay in Pakistan for one day.
“For the first time ever, the tour will visit all 32 countries that qualified for the FIFA World Cup, inspiring fans across the world through exclusive consumer experiences,” said a statement on the FIFA website.
“Pakistan has a growing passion for football and events like these will continue to inspire fans and the youth,” the IPC secretary said. But the question remains whether the arrival of the World Cup trophy will inspire the country’s youth to take up football.
“The FIFA World Cup Trophy is one of the greatest symbols in sport,” said Romy Gai, FIFA’s chief business officer.
Organisers of the Trophy Tour and its sponsors said they hoped that this visit as well as with the World Cup being held in nearby Qatar would be a tipping point for growth of football in Pakistan. Only time will tell whether that will be the case.