Former French national footballer Christian Karembeu offers a wai as he brings the 2018 Fifa World Cup trophy to Phuket on Friday.

Football fans in Phuket are expected to be out in force on Saturday to catch an in-person glimpse of the Fifa World Cup trophy.

Former French national player Christian Karembeu brought the iconic solid-gold trophy to Phuket in a welcome ceremony held at the airport on Friday.

Karembeu was in the Les Bleus side that won the cup in 1998 when France hosted the tournament.

The trophy will be displayed at Central Festival Phuket on Saturday.

Phuket is the only destination in Thailand for the 2018 World Cup Trophy Tour, which started in Russia — the host of the tournament — on Sept 9 and is travelling to 51 countries covering 126,000 kilometres before the journey ends in Russia on June 7.

The trophy came to Phuket from Male, the capital of the Maldives, and its next stop is in Vientiane on Sunday.

Coca-Cola is sponsoring the globe-trotting trip of the trophy.

“In bringing the Fifa World Cup Trophy to Thailand, Coca-Cola intends for Thai people to spend this special moment together as they will have the opportunity to experience the greatness and magic of the World Cup trophy,” said Sedef Salingan Sahin, general manager of Coca-Cola (Thailand) Co in a statment.

The world’s most anticipated sporting event will be held in Russia from June 14 to July 15 with 32 countries competing to be crowned the world’s best football team.

With the first match to kick off in just five months, Thai fans are still waiting for the broadcast rights deal to be settled. Prospective rights buyers have been put off by a National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission regulation that live major sporting events such as the World Cup and Olympics must be aired on free TV as well.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Jan 10 guaranteed live broadcasts of all matches.

Gen Prawit, who chairs the Sports Authority of Thailand, repeated the pledge again in Bangkok on Saturday.

Seven companies would pool money, contribulting about 200 million baht each, to bring the matches to Thailand, he said. Details, including the TV channels that will air the matches, were under negotiation, he added.

The fee for the broadcast rights is about 1.3 billion baht.

News Reporter

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