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Under-16 footballers dreaming big
Pakistan U16 celebrate SAFF U16 Cup final win (AFP Photo)

Under-16 footballers dreaming big

Pakistan U16 celebrate SAFF U16 Cup final win (AFP Photo)

The journey to stardom can be excruciating and long for some but others hope that one big break is enough to land them fame.

For three Pakistan under-16 footballers – Zainul Abidin, Munir Aftab and Sanaullah – who travelled to Abu Dhabi and attended a month-long training camp at the Manchester United Soccer School as part of the Zong United Kickoff tournament that concluded in May 2012, it’s the latter that sounds appealing.

Zain plays in Lasbela, Sanaullah in Malir and Aftab shows off his talent in the football-crazy area of Lyari, all in Karachi. However, the project of taking a group of boys to Abu Dhabi was not the only thing that brought them together. They share a common dream — international recognition for their football talent.

With the first step – and many more to come – giving them high-level training, the three have landed a contract with NBP that will fetch them Rs5,000 a month and plenty of on-field opportunities. But it’s not the money – or even education – that matters right now, as Zain put it.

“Training in Abu Dhabi with English coaches has changed my life forever,” Zain, who featured in the Pakistan U16 team that won the South Asian Championship in Nepal last year, told The Express Tribune.

“It’s like I have a new lifestyle now. The biggest challenge was to communicate with coaches there. We would need a translator all the time during training. But football has a language of its own. Although I’m completing my matriculation, this trip has made me realise that I just want to play international football.”

On the other hand, Aftab, captain of the NBP and the U16 team, started playing when he was five but feels ‘life as a footballer has just begun’.

“I had to rethink my training and schedule that I used to follow here in Pakistan,” said Aftab. “I’ve noticed that we can never be the kind of players anywhere else. They eat and live in a healthier environment compared to us. There’s a big difference among us and this training project helped us realise that.”

Aftab, however, is at least aspiring to become the country’s first player to be signed by an English club.

Sanaullah, meanwhile, has a different perspective, his approach is practical and simple.

“I have a job because I play football — that’s all I could ask for,” he said. “Going to Abu Dhabi was a bonus for me. But to be honest, this is as far as I’ll be able to go. The best thing the tour has done for me is that it got us more recognition in Pakistan.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012 by Natasha Raheel.

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  • shah

    good to see the boys having ambition to progress and play at higher standard…some looking beyond dep jobs for a change and ofcourse some are happy with just a stable job.

    going to NBP probably not going to help with Nasir being there and some young players having failed to develop to their true potential..so i worry for them.

    the boys need some guidance in moving their careers forward..

    • footballpakistan

      Exactly. Being part of the questionable coaching staff at NBP football team is a cause of major concern. The typical lure of ‘permanent jobs’ is a curse for football development in Pakistan.

  • Sabeehanjum_love

    i think Mansoor Khan should be tried for south asian games

    • footballpakistan

      Mansoor Khan has left PAF and joined KRL just to let you know.

  • fraza
  • http://twitter.com/Homeless_Dons Tre♥or

    In England there are alot of very good Pakistan by birth or by heritage (British born to Pakistani parents). In football you need a lot of help from people who are considered powerful in football being the best player just is not enough and i feel at some point in that climbing the ladder of a footballers career racism plays apart i have seen it through playing football. This is why players in England who are Pakistani are not given a fair chance. I just wish there was someway to address the issue at the top of the game.

  • A.ALI ASHIQ MOHABBAT5

    PFF SHOULD CHANGE THE DEPARTMENTAL LEAGUE TO CITY BASED CLUB LEAGUE SO THE PLAYERS ARE INTERESTED THE FANS & PEOPLE WATCH FOOTBALL DEPARTMENTS SPONSOR THE CLUBS NOT RUN THEIR OWN CLUBS GET MONEY FROM SPONSORS & ONWERS AS WELL AS TICKETS & OTHER REVENUE’S IN SHORT MAKE IT A PRO LEAGUE LOOK AT I-LEAGUE OF INDIA BROADCASTING RIGHTS ARE SOLD FOR GOOD MONEY AS WELL LAST YEAR TENSPORTS MADE A PRETTY GOOD DEAL FOR ATLEAST TELECASTING 180 MATCHES OF I-LEAGUE LIVE ON GOOD ONEY FOR 8 YEARS OR MORE I THINK

    “A.ALI”