Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho arrives in Kerala

Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho got a rapturous welcome in Kerala on Sunday, with thousands of football-crazy fans queuing up to get a glimpse of their hero.

Former Barcelona star Ronaldinho is in Kerala as brand ambassador of the Sait Nagjee Football Tournament, which is being revived after a gap of 21 years.   -  Special Arrangement

Former Selecao star Ronaldinho got a rapturous welcome when he touched down at the Kozhikode airport on Sunday, with thousands of football-crazy fans queuing up to get a glimpse of their hero.

The former Barcelona midfielder is in Kerala as brand ambassador of the Sait Nagjee Football Tournament, which is being revived after a gap of 21 years. Even though the tournament is scheduled to begin on February 5, the organisers have brought in the two-time World Player of the Year to ensure they get a strong pre-event publicity.

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

Wearing sunglasses and a sleeveless singlet, the playmaker found it tough to reach his vehicle, with the security forces struggling to control the crowd. From the airport to the hotel, he was taken in a procession of 500 two-wheelers, with several people turning up to see him on the drive to the hotel.

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

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

The tournament will see the participation of seven teams from Europe and 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.