WORLD Player of the Year and Balon d’Or recipient in 1999, Rivaldo is expected to accompany fellow Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho when he comes to Zimbabwe next month as part of a series of promotional activities ahead of the Barcelona Legends’ match against the Warriors in November.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Initially, Ronaldinho, who won two World Player of the Year awards and the Ballon d’Or once during his career, was the only Barcelona legend who was expected to come to Zimbabwe ahead of the highly-publicised exhibition match.
Sports World can, however, reveal that Rivaldo is expected to accompany Ronaldinho in Zimbabwe, reuniting the two great Brazilians who both donned the no.10 jersey at different times before winning the Ballon d’Or while playing for Barça.
Rivaldo was at Barcelona for five seasons, between 1997 and 2002, where he scored 136 goals in 253 matches. Furthermore, he helped the team to two league titles (97/98 and 98/99), one Spanish Super Cup (1997) and a Copa del Rey (97/98).
Ronaldinho also was a Barça man for five years, from 2003 until 2008, and won La Liga twice (04/05 and 05/06), a Champions League (05/06) and two Spanish Super Cups (05/06 and 06/07), scoring 110 goals across the 250 matches played.
The duo’s visit, which has been slated for the second week of September, follows a visit by Barcelona Legends captain Patrick Kluivert and his ex-teammate Edgar Davids, who were in the country last week.
All the activities are being organised by the Spanish-based RG Consultant and Sport Solutions with the support of the Ministry of Sports and Recreation.
RG Consultant and Sport Solutions is owned by the Barcelona Legends representative and football agent Rayco Garcia, who accompanied the legendary Dutch duo during their visit recently.
The company’s Africa executive Tich Mawoni, said he was motivated to bring the Barcelona Legends to Zimbabwe due to his love for football and the country.
“The visit was meant to discuss the upcoming soccer match between the Barcelona legends and the Warriors legends which we hope will help market Zimbabwe to the world and show that it is a safe destination,” Mawoni told Sports World in an interview on Friday.
“It’s not because I have the money; I’m just like any other Zimbabwean who is ambitious but the project became a reality due to the passion and the encouragement from the Ministry of Sport and Recreation.”
“RG Consultant and Sport Solutions, who have a partnership with Barcelona, were also responsible for the visit by Neymar to Victoria Falls through Zambia and he was hosted in that country. They also organised the exhibition match between the Barcelona Legends and Uganda Cranes two years ago.”
“So this time we decided to further strengthen the relations and have an exhibition match for all soccer-loving Zimbabweans to enjoy the Barcelona experience.”
He said besides organising the visits by the former Barcelona stars as well as the exhibition match, RG Consultant and Sport Solutions’ goal was to set up a football academy in the country.
“The focus will not be just on the soccer match as the main goal is to set up a football academy in the country, which will be named the RG Sports Solutions Academy for kids to nurture their talent and skills in preparation for possible moves to Europe.”
Meanwhile, the duo of Davids and Kluivert were feted like kings during their recent visit, which Mawoni believes would entice the cream of the Barcelona Legends to come for the highly-anticipated encounter.
“Davids and Kluivert were in awe of the hospitality they were given during their stay here and they can’t wait to come back for the match. We first visited the Heroes Acre as part of seeing Harare’s scenic views and monuments before going to Victoria Falls where they took part in various activities such as bungee jumping and game viewing safari,”he said.
“Most of all, they loved the warmth of the people and they were very happy with the hospitality they received from their host minister of Sport and Recreation Makhosini Hlongwane.”
During their visit, the Dutch legends met Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa at his offices in the capital and presented Barcelona shirts for the first family.
They then travelled to Gwanda, where they attended the commissioning of a community based information centre before meeting President Robert Mugabe, who was scheduled to address a Zanu PF youth rally last Saturday.