ISLAMABAD - Close to 500 Pakistani fans are travelling to Brazil to witness the biggest sporting carnival - the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil’s Ambassador to Pakistan Alfredo Leoni said Thursday. “We have issued visas to around 200 people from Pakistan, while the rest of Pakistanis are travelling to our country from other parts of the world,” Leoni told reporters at the Brazilian Embassy here. “Here in Pakistan, we've given 100 per cent waiver on visas to Pakistani fans to help them enjoy football extravaganza in our country,” he said. Leoni praised Pakistan’s football manufacturing industry which will be supplying the balls being used at this year’s World Cup.

Pakistan secured the contract when FIFA World Cup’s Chinese supplier Adidas failed to keep up with the demand of footballs in Rio de Janeiro. Sialkot ball manufacturing company Forward Sports stepped in and secured the deal. They had only 33 days to make it happen but they managed and now Pakistan will be represented at the World Cup by the ‘Brazuca’.

“Though Pakistan is a 164th-ranked football team, it has left all others behind in production of quality balls. I feel proud to be ambassador in a country which will be supplying all the balls being used in the FIFA World Cup,” he added.

Pakistan produces around 70 per cent of the total number of hand-made balls in the world. Around the time of the World Cup the production jumps to more than 60 million balls. The Pakistani city of Sialkot is the hub of the country's football manufacturing industry. Forward Sports owner, Malik Khwaja Masood Akhtar, told DW he had prepared footballs for a number of international events, but preparing ‘Brazucas’ was more challenging. “We normally make hand-made footballs. Manufacturing machine-made balls was a tough task. We had to use various computer programs and modern equipment to produce the footballs. We didn't have experts who could do this job, but we worked hard and did not compromise on quality,” Akhtar added.