Football World Cup

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ALFREDO LEONI
 To Prove Huge Image Booster For Brazil
Ambassador of Brazil Alfredo Leoni talks to DNA and Centreline

Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Mr. Alfredo Leoni, Ambassador of Brazil talked to Centreline and DNA exclusively about the upcoming football world cup, starting from June 12. The ambassador gave a detailed account of preparations and various security measures that the Brazilian government has taken. It is the second time the Brazil is hosting this mega event. Here are excerpts from the interview.

intrvuBrazil has been picked up to host World’s biggest event. How would to describe this achievement?

As you know, football is very important for Brazil. Whenever you think about football you think about Brazil and vice versa. Let me say that football is our best ambassador which is promoting our country’s image all over the world because the most popular sport in the world no doubt is football. We are very happy to host this mega event for the second time. In 1950 Brazil hosted football world cup for the first time. In 1950 the world cup matches took place only in one city i.e Rio while this time 12 cities will have the privilege to host world cup matches.

We have spent a lot of money on this event especially on up gradation of various play grounds. The money is spent in two areas, first development of infrastructure, which among other things would also improve the living standard of Brazilian people. Football event is for a stipulated time period but ordinary people would continue to reap benefits of the investments that the government has made in infrastructure development for many more years to come. Another investment is made in up-gradation of stadiums and now we have 12 world class football grounds. I am sure investments in this particular field i.e renovation of stadiums, would help explore more and more young talents.

And most importantly Brazil shall become focus of entire world’s attention for one month for sure because of this biggest event. Even countries like Pakistan where football is not a popular sport, Brazil will remain in focus of attention because of football matches. Brazilians feel proud that they have been given this opportunity to show to the world at large that they can excel in all fields.

The mega event is likely to generate huge economic activity in Brazil. Do you think this particular event would further strengthen Brazilian economy?

I am quite certain that the football world cup will spur huge economic activity in Brazil. As per estimates over 0.7 million tourists are expected to flock to Brazil during the world cup matches. Most of them will stay for the entire world cup which means for a full month. Likewise, Brazil will ostensibly emerge as a country better known for its tourism as well as business potential.

As we know Brazilian govt has made elaborate security arrangements for the world cup. Can you share with our readers some of the salient features of the security measures?

There are many measures which have been taken concerning security at all levels. The entire air space around the stadium where the match will take place will be blocked two hours before start of the match and afterwards as well. Likewise hundreds of policemen shall be deployed in the cities where matches will take place. Let me tell you that Brazil is a neutral country, which traditionally has very peaceful diplomacy. We do not have internal or external enemies. We border with ten countries and have cordial relations with all of them.

Now having said that, I must admit that there are some dissenting voices within the country that think money which is being spent on the world cup, should have been spent on the welfare of people. Of course there are quite a few demonstrations as well however such demonstrations are the democratic right of the people. Nevertheless the Brazilian government will make sure no inconvenience is caused to players and delegates because of these demonstrations.

How would your embassy facilitate those Pakistani fans who desire to go to Brazil to witness the matches?

I personally have great expectations that this world cup in Brazil will have a very strong impact on Pakistani society in terms of promoting football and Brazil as well. Since Brazil is situated far way from Pakistan so it is but natural if Pakistanis have a little knowledge of our country, however I am quite confident, the world cup would certainly help promote knowledge about Brazil in Pakistan. I hope Pakistanis interest in Brazil would increase manifold after this world cup, especially among the young people because they take keen interest in this sport.

 

Let me inform you that we are in touch with the Marriott hotel in order to screen all matches live. But apart from that the embassy has also planned a number of activities to promote this event. A photo exhibition on football done by a renowned photographer of football matches has been arranged. This photo exhibition will continue till the end of the football world cup.

Pakistan is exporter of footballs. Do you import footballs from Pakistan?

Another thing which we are going to promote is that Pakistani made footballs shall be used in the world cup with a view to strengthening the fact that Sialkot is a quality producer of footballs. This is something Pakistani businessmen and Pakistani people in general can be proud of. Let me share the name of the company i.e Forward Sports (Pvt) Ltd, which has produced these footballs. CEO of the company Khawaja Masood indeed deserves appreciation for this quality work.

Let me avail this opportunity to ask you for any updates with regard to bilateral relations between Brazil and Pakistan?

The main objective of the embassy during the last few years has been to promote image of Brazil in Pakistan because more and more business as well as other opportunities can be cultivated after proper projection of country’s image. Though there is always room for improvement, after almost four years hard work done by our embassy, I can safely say Pakistani people now have reasonable information about Brazil. The encouraging thing is that people’s interest in Brazil is growing with the each passing day.

To increase volume of trade also happens to be our top most priority because if you have good trade relations, you can do many other things quite easily such as cultural events, sports activities and interaction in education sector. Brazil has been for many years the largest trading partner of Pakistan in Latin America, although our volume of trade is not that much significant and needs improvement.  Our bilateral trade volume stands at $ 250 million per annum, which of course can reach USD one billion with a little bit of effort. Also allow me to say that if this trade is done directly without involving a third party the figures can also go up drastically. Pakistan’s security situation may be an issue for the foreign investors but I think situation may improve in coming days as the government too is aware of this particular issue.

Anything you would like to add?

I do hope with this world cup we will be able to increase more interest among Pakistani people about Brazil. I wish all Pakistanis to have good time to enjoy matches and join us in sharing excitement and magic of this sport. I wish, like all Brazilians, that our team wins this prestigious event because I believe the Brazilian team is well prepared for the event.