By Mohammad Bilal Athar
With the ever growing popularity of Football in Pakistan, the beautiful game’s younger brother, ‘futsal’ has become quite the phenomenon as well .To celebrate this game, futsal tournaments are held all over the country. In the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the biggest event of this nature is Footy Mania- a futsal tournament held in NUST H-12, organized by the NUST Community Service Club (NCSC).The third edition of this box office event was held from the 21st of March to the 24th of March 2016.After the first two iterations ,with Footy Mania already becoming a key fixture for all futsal enthusiasts, the third edition set out to achieve the unenviable task of pushing the bar even higher.
From the onset, the organizing team of NCSC made their intentions clear by securing fitin.pk as the sponsor and FootballPakistan.com(FPDC) as the media partners.Fitin.pk is an online clothing store headed by the students of various top universities. Their aim and ambition is to provide an unparalleled shopping experience in Pakistan that rivals anyone in the world. On the other hand, FPDC is the number one online source of all things football in Pakistan. They have been trail blazers in their field and have played an important role in promoting football in Pakistan. Having such praise worthy names on board provided a great boost to this already booming tournament.
The group stages kicked off on a fine afternoon of the 21st of March and the quest of 32 teams to lay claim to the title of the best futsal team in the region began. The day had a contrast of absolute demolition jobs like Highlanders FC and GC United 7-0 victories over Assassins FC and Namalites respectively to closely fought encounters like the 3-3 draw between Saints FC and Highlanders FC.
Day 2 continued the procession of the group stages. The results were more uniform compared to first day but the action remained thoroughly entertaining. We witnessed a few high scoring games but low scoring games were the order of the day. The rise in intensity was clearly visible. No team was willing to give even an inch to the other. That was the reason for 1-0 being the most prevalent among the score-lines. As the day came to a close, we had our lineup for the final 16.Thudda FC and Popo FC went into the next round with a perfect record of 3 wins in 3 , earning them the tag of favorites for the knockout stages. Group E was the closest fought group with both the qualifying teams(SCME Cobras and Al-Ikhwan) edging out with 6 points respectively.
On the 3rd day, the knockouts were underway and there is only one thing certain about knockouts- anyone can eliminate anyone on the given day. Past success becomes meaningless. Such is the ruthless nature of this stage where giants fall and giant killers are born. Staying true to its unpredictable nature, we witnessed 4 penalty shoot-outs on the day. The round of 16 had a couple of straight forward results but the quarter-finals signaled that the business end of the tournament has well and truly begun. A penalty shoot-out along with three 1-0 victories showed the cut throat nature of the quarters and now there were four- Al-Ikhwan, GC United, Saints FC and Highlanders FC.
Finals day came and the excitement reached to a fever pitch. The semi-finals beautifully summed up the kind of matches we have witnessed throughout this fine tournament. On one hand, we had the Highlanders FC gunning down GC United with a thumping score line of 7-2 while on the other hand we had a tooth and nail encounter which finished on 3-2 in favor of the Saints FC. The final battlefield was set. Saints FC and the Highlanders FC had proved themselves to be worthy finalists. This wasn’t only for the realization of a dream but this was for the bragging rights. The two teams, having met earlier in the tournament, played out an entertaining 3-3 draw. Now, this would decide who truly deserves to be the best. After a fierce contest it was the team work of the Saints FC that over-whelmed the individual brilliance of Highlanders FC as they took the title with a clear cut 3-0 victory.
The turnout of the matches was great and grew day by day as the tournament reached its climax. One reason for people showing up in large numbers was the overall electric atmosphere. The music system along with the commentary created great excitement and kept everyone on the edge of their seats. To go along with the heart racing drama, there were other pleasantries in the form of stalls to provide the audience a break from the action. There were multiple food stalls to provide tasteful delights to the crowd. The highlight of them was Pick A Pakora, who are responsible for making some of the most scrumptious and unique pakora dishes. There was also a FIFA desk where you could try your hand at FIFA 16 and enjoy the euphoria of the game. Then there was the excellent photography of our very own NCSC photographers, who not only extensively covered the event but also allowed the people present to preserve their memories. Apart from all this, there was a national anthem ceremony on the 3rd day which happened to be 23rd March, better known as Pakistan day. It was a great show of patriotism by the attendees and something that would prove to be a cherished memory.
As the dust settled and the emotions stabilized from what had been a roller coaster ride, it was time for the prize distribution ceremony. The Saints FC took the Rs20,000 winners’ prize while the Highlanders FC took the Rs10,000 runners up prize. That was not all. Saints FC also received kits from our sponsors, Fitin.pk. Along with the team prizes, there was an individual prize for the top scorer as well. The entire tournament was glittered with great solo performances.We had Ehtesham of GC United scoring 7 goals in a group match(12 in total) and was the driving force behind his team’s run to the semi-finals and then we had Muhammad of Saints FC, who turned up when it mattered the most by scoring a hat-trick in the final. However, the star of the tournament was the top scorer ,Murtaza Hussain.His tally of 15 goals, that included a hat-trick in the semis , won him a pair of Nike Studs. Although this was meant to entertain the masses, the heart and soul of this event was the spirit of community service. The proceeds of this tournament went to the NUST endowment fund which provides financial assistance to deserving students of NUST. At the end of the day , this would not have been possible without the cooperation of the NUST administration and the hard work of event heads, Talha Ahmed and Sarmad Fareed. Their team consisted of Basim Abdul Mannan, Uzair Sajjad, Maratib Ali, Faiq Munir, Ali Vaqar, Salman Ali, Hanzala Khan, Saad Bin Yousuf, Attiq Ur Rehman, Mahnoor Mustabeen, Maryam Aneeq, Abdullah Iqbal, Abdullah Toufique, Afrasiyab, Abdullah Anwar, Abdur Rehman Maqsood and Khizar Nazir.Finally we would like to thank the referees Mr.Tauqeer, Mr.Zakir and Mr.Matti ur Rehman who ensured that game was played in the right spirit and in accordance to the rules. We hope to continue this tradition next year and climb the insurmountable mountain of making this event even better !
A few Highlights: