By: Aslam Chandio from Islamabad, Pakistan
(Interview with Brazilian Ambassador to Pakistan, Alfredo Leoni)
Brazil expected 700 thousand people to visit its soil during the World Cup, but the response from the world was more than the expectations as one million people visited the South American country during the football extravaganza,” says the Brazilian Ambassador to Pakistan Alfredo Leoni.
In an interview with this scribe, Alfredo Leoni said many soccer fans are calling this one of the best World Cups in decades, given the high-level of play on the field and lack of serious hitches in logistics for fans as they made their way to stadiums.
Major concerns and success
“Concerns that stadium and airports wouldn’t be ready or that protests would disrupt soccer’s premiere event dogged Brazil in the years leading up to the event. But now, with the World Cup over, people are hailing it as a sporting success and hundreds of thousands of fans have applauded the warmth of Brazilians and the lively party atmosphere,” Leoni stated.
“Well, we’ve eliminated the doubts of all who didn’t believe in us,” Leoni stated, adding that instead of the usual eight World Cup host cities, Brazil chose to have 12 to spread development around the continent-size country. “This World Cup featured stadiums that are thousands of miles from each other: from Manaus, deep in the Amazon rainforest, to Porto Alegre, on the Atlantic coast, about 1,950 miles.”
Brazil has proved its doubters wrong by putting on a highly successful football World Cup, Leoni stated. “We showed the world that our people know how to have good interaction not only among ourselves but with the foreigners that we received. We competently maintained peace and order, as well as having good airport administration among other successes.”
BRICS and global economy
To counter the effect of US sanctions that are crippling Iran’s economy, it may join BRICS in future.
Talking about BRICS, the envoy said, “I wish emerging economic powers like Iran, Turkey, Indonesia and Mexico would soon become part of this group.”
“The BRICS group is made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, announced the creation of the bank at a BRICS summit meeting in Fortaleza, Brazil on 15th July. The leaders of the five BRICS countries signed a deal to create a new USD 100 billion development bank and emergency reserve fund. The bank will have a headquarters in Shanghai, China and the first president for the bank will come from India.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma attended the 6th BRICS summit in Fortaleza.
The envoy stated that the two major documents were approved during the summit include: Fortaleza Declaration and Fortaleza Plan of Action. “Also at the Summit, other documents signed include: Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation among BRICS Export Credit Insurance Agencies, Treaty for the establishment of a BRICS Contingent Reserve arrangement, agreement on the New Development Bank and the Cooperation Agreement on Innovation.”
“Pakistan is on a right track to improve its economic conditions by working on resolving the crisis of energy and improving law and order situation. If Pakistan continues to resolve troubles of energy and terrorism, then I hope that Pakistan could also become the part of BRICS after few years,” the Ambassador stated.
“China has been contributing five times more than the Italy in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but Italy has more say in the IMF”, he stated, adding that the IMF has a budget of USD 240 billion and the BRICS is not too far.
Brazilian football team catastrophe
Talking about the Brazilian team, he stated that the team was not the best at start and team was feeling the pressure of winning the World Cup. He also felt that Brazil missed Neymar and skipper Thiago Silva against the aggressive Germans in the semifinals. “It’s a positive sign that out of 32 nations, we remained at number four even in the catastrophic situation. I am hopeful that the team would return to its winning form very soon.”
RIO Olympics 2016
If the World Cup was big for Brazil, the 2016 Olympics will be even bigger for Rio de Janeiro.
“Our obligation to Rio de Janeiro, to Brazil and to the worldwide sporting community is to deliver memorable Games, since we are talking about the biggest celebration of sport in the world. We are undertaking the mission of planning and organising the Games in a responsible manner,” Leoni stated.
Ambassador of Brazil to Pakistan is committed to enhancing the bilateral trade volume between the two countries to USD one billion. Brazil is Pakistan’s largest commercial partner in Latin America with trade volume reaching USD 250 million. The envoy said there are prospects for further increase in bilateral trade. Alfredo Leoni said that Brazil is ready to collaborate with Pakistan in all fields.
“A five-year multiple entry visa policy has created new opportunities for Pakistani businessmen intending to invest in Brazil and the number of Pakistani businessmen traveling to Brazil has doubled over the last few months. This change from the 90-day visa policy to five-year multiple entry will increase trade to its maximum potential,” the ambassador said.
He stated that the Bangladesh earned USD 500 million by exporting garments including jerseys, caps and flags among other items during the World Cup. The soccer balls produced by Forward Sports (Pvt) Ltd established in Sialkot, Pakistan were used in the World Cup. “We are thankful to Pakistan for providing soccer balls to world for playing football World Cup. Pakistani businessmen can also earn huge amount of money by exporting garments related items to Brazil,” the envoy said.
Trade volume between Brazil and China is USD 85 billion, Brazil and India is USD 9 billion, while USD one billion each with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, he added.
‘Obrigado’ Pakistan for supporting Brazil
Talking about support of Pakistanis for the Brazilian football team, Leoni said, “I am thankful to the people of Pakistan for supporting Brazil football team in every event. Also, I do thank people of Lyari, Karachi for the great esteem they show for Brazil and Brazilians. I sent the Protocol Officer of the Embassy, Mazher Rafiq to Lyari to deliver a message of appreciation to Lyariites for their support for the Brazilian football team. For the Lyariites, I forwarded the official football of the World Cup, produced in Sialkot , as well as other gifts such as footballs, caps, posters of the Brazilian football team, magazines and books.”
He praised the performance of Pakistani street children football team for securing third position in this year’s Street Child World Cup held in Brazil and termed it an inspiration for other children in Pakistan.
Aslam Chandio is an Islamabad based journalist. He tweets at @aslamchandio_