The sports-loving nation beat another international isolation barrier when football greats Luis Figo, of Portugal, and Ricardo Kaka, of Brazil, arrived in Karachi on Friday to launch World Soccer Stars in Pakistan. The visit, even though a brief one, by international football celebrities is a welcome move, and it will bring about a positive change to country’s sport scene, which has been devoid of international competitions for years because of a spate of terror incidence in the country since 2000. The duo also visited Lahore in the evening amid much media spotlight, and not under much security, which vouch for the fact that the country is back to the path of normalcy. The Real Madrid sensations promised to tour the country again in April this year with 10 more legends from many countries to paly World Soccer Stars matches in Karachi and Lahore. Earlier, eight international players, including Brazilian superstar Ronaldhino, have also visited Pakistan in 2017. Argentina hero Diego Maradona has shown his interest in meeting Pakistani football players. All these developments are enough to prove that Pakistan is safe for international sports and that Pakistani young generation is exhibiting interest in football though cricket runs in the blood of the nation. The extra media coverage of the visit of Figo and Kaka will send positive signals to sports authorities across the globe. Far away from the media galore of metropolitan cities, international kabbadi teams of Iran and India showed their muscle powers in the much crowded ground of Bahawalpur the same day when Figo and Kaka were in Karachi. The most favourite sport of the rural Punjab, however, went unnoticed in the media or attracted a very little coverage. The media needs to cover traditional sports of the country, and give sufficient coverage to such matches where international teams are involved. Similarly, the sports ministry should allocate appropriate funds for the promotion of sports other than cricket. Recently, national hockey team members’ statements hit the headlines just days before the inception of World Hockey Cup, being held in India, over the unavailability of funds. As the federal government refused to release funds, it was left to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah who provided the team with enough funds for the world cup. The demoralised team failed to put up an impressive show at the event. What would have one expected from the team which remained uncertain about its participation till the eleventh hour? Players need to be treated with respect and dignity. As players’ demand for infrastructures, funds and facilities is justified, in return players should also present responsible conduct on and off the field. The stories of a dressing room fight between Pakistan cricket coach Mickey Arthur and players Sarfraz Ahmed, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq in Centurion show that players and team managers need good lessons on the importance of discipline and conduct. Differences erupt everywhere but national team players, who are the ambassadors of the nation, should watch out their every step. We have been getting a bad press for years because of match fixing scandals. Coming back to the football affairs of Pakistan, as international participation is to impact the players, especially the crazy lot of Lyari and Quetta, the local football federation needed to be corrected. Over the years, Pakistan has lost its space in football rankings. By the early 1970s, Pakistan was among 10 top teams of Asia football. In 2019, it is the 199th in the FIFA rankings. The shady affairs of the federations, mainly because of dirty politics and government’s interference in the federation, placed Pakistan on the banned country list in 1995 and again in 2017. Right now, Pakistan is part of FIFA, but a third ban is imminent because of the federation affairs. Federation and government players of football should learn to play honestly. * Published in Daily Times, January 12th 2019.