On 28th march 2014 Maradona slammed the Argentine Football Association by accusing those in charge of “understanding as much about football as Pakistan does”. Coming from a player whose fan I have been right from his hey days through his antics on the field ala the hand of god and off it with the various controversies he has featured in, it felt like a slap in the face.
Not so because someone whom I consider one of the greats, feels we lack as a nation but because Pakistan is growing in the field of football and people should really do more research before they shoot their mouths off. For instance we have climbed 30 spots to be at 158 in the world in FIFA rankings this year, not something to celebrate yet but it is progress and it means something.
We also have in spite of the behemoth of a sport cricket is in Pakistan, lots of passionate fans of the beautiful game & local level clubs and football competitions being organized regularly for players both at school and regional level. In spite of the lack of ratings here for another sport to be featured you hear talk of football in both mainstream and new media and a team from our streets went to the Street children world cup in rio all the way to the semi final recently!
That means the talent is here, the infrastructure is developing and there is work being done in the development sector as well on football with international collaborations. For instance the Real Madrid Foundation (FRM) & the Aman foundation have just launched a social sports academy where Master coaches trained in a short football course in Spain are now going to teach our local lads skills. Their plan is to affect 400 children from Ibrahim Hyderi and other underserved areas aged 6-17 and believe me those kids want to play so bad, they have been doing so without even shoes on their feet till now.
Their director Khawaja Obaid sets this initiatives goal post as
“Our collaboration with Realmadrid Foundation goes towards our mission to provide every child, boy and girl, in Karachi the opportunity to play sport. This is their inherent right and will contribute towards a powerful, transformative, learning experience.”
So I wouldn’t be shocked if one of the European clubs soon takes a local footballer, exposes him to the international level and breaks the barriers that naive statements like maradonas are trying to impose on our nation. So yes we may not be absolute wizards at this game yet, but that’s only because we have not gotten the exposure or the opportunity to prove ourselves yet not because we lack in passion or love for this game.
If its one thing anyone knows about this nation, it is that one of our teams should never be counted out. The perennial underdogs have solidified their reputation as un predictable in every sport that we play, I hope we include football in that roster soon.