Brazilian Ronaldinho gets tumultuous welcome in Kerala

Kozhikode (Kerala), Jan 24 (IANS) Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho on Sunday got a tumultuous welcome on his maiden visit to the state with thousands turning out to greet the football wizard.

Ronaldinho is here after being named as the brand ambassador of the Sait Nagjee Football Tournament that is being revived after a gap of 21 years. Even though the tournament is to begin on February 5 here, the organisers have brought in the two-time World Player of the Year to ensure that they get a very strong pre-event publicity.

Arriving from Dubai on Sunday morning at Kochi, Ronaldinho flew in to Kozhikode on a helicopter and here, the football lovers from Kozhikode and Malappuram turned out in huge numbers. After seeing the crowd, the 2002 World Cup-winner first retreated and appeared a while later.

Spotted wearing dark sunglasses and a sleeveless singlet, the playmaker found it tough to reach his vehicle. From the airport to the hotel, he was taken in a procession of 500 two-wheelers with several turning up to see him on the drive to the hotel.

Ronaldinho was capped 97 times by his country in which he scored 33 goals. He also played for top clubs like Paris St. Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan.

The 35-year-old will be given a civic reception here in the evening where the trophy of the tournament would be handed to him. On Monday, he is to visit a state-run school to interact with the children.

The tournament will see the participation of seven teams from Europe, South America besides one I-League team. The last time the tournament was held in 1995, JCT Mills beat Dempo Goa to clinch the title.

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