Brazil’s Ronaldinho and a host of other former top footballers played an exhibition match in Pakistan on Saturday in a push to encourage people in the cricket-mad nation to take up the game.

Recently-retired Ronaldinho, who graced the Barcelona shirt in his prime, told reporters he wanted to “provide a good show” in the country, which is looking to entice more international stars as security improves.

“Thank you for all the admiration and treating me so well,” he said ahead of a match in Karachi, the first of two games in the trip.

The group dubbed “Ronaldinho and friends” also includes former Manchester United stalwart Ryan Giggs, former England goalkeeper David James, Dutch star George Boateng, former French players Robert Pires and Nicolas Anelka, and Portuguese player Luis Boa Morte.

Fans thronged to the Karachi stadium for the match late Saturday, with some travelling long distances for the rare chance to watch the footballing greats.

“I set off early this morning for Karachi,” Mohammad Yaqoob told AFP.

“I am here for the love of football and Ronaldinho.” Student Bilal Malik, who had come with a group of friends, said the Brazilian player was the star of the match, which also included homegrown players.

“His skills are mind-boggling. I want to see him play live before my eyes,” he said.

Pakistan boasted a top place in Asian football until the early 1970s, but a lack of government support and poor infrastructure helped push them to as low as 200th in the FIFA football rankings.

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