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Balochistan Cup: A ray of hope for Hazaras [Express Tribune]

Balochistan Cup: A ray of hope for Hazaras [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Football can be empowering to communities and that is the case with Quetta’s Hazara community that is now featured in the Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) Balochistan Cup 2017, where they have made it into the semi-finals.

Participating for the first time in a major tournament in three years, three of Quetta City’s major players belong to the Hazara Town near western bypass that has been recently facing challenges in keeping their only football ground from the land mafia.

Besides the Hazara Town residents the community itself has been subjected to target killings with the latest attack in January, confining the people to their areas, depriving them of any movement across the city, which has only destroyed their sports, businesses, education and a general right of living peacefully.

“It is a huge deal for us to finally be able to shine in football,” The Hazara Green Club secretary and the manager of Quetta City team Syed Sakhi Agha told The Express Tribune. “This is the first time we are playing in Malibagh Quetta in three years. Our football activities have been limited because of the violence against our community, but we are grateful to PPL and Balochistan Football Association for making an effort to include us. The fact that we’ve reached the semi-finals only says that we have a lot of talent among our boys but they are not getting adequate facilities.”

Agha said Quetta City’s place in the semis proves that talent is there is polished properly. “They included the Quetta City team especially for us so that we can play. We didn’t participate in the last edition of the tournament because the venue was unsafe for us. The fact that we’ve reached the semi-finals only says that we have a lot of talent among our boys but they are not getting adequate facilities.”

The Balochistan Cup is featuring 37 teams from all the six districts of the province in the qualifying round while the top 12 teams reached the final round, which they played in four groups.

Quetta City was placed in Group B with Turbat and Jaffarabad, while they emerged as the top side when they defeated Lasbela 2-1 in the quarter-final.

Agha said that the selection process for the team was also thorough starting with 31 players and then picking the best for the 16-member squad.

“We really want to play, although one side of our community has the ground but the other doesn’t and it was a struggle. The three players Izat Ali, Ali Gha and Anees Ali have been instrumental in helping us win our matches at the tournament and all three of them are from the other side, where the community doesn’t even have their football ground to play at, they were coming in from a very hard time protesting against the land mafia to leave their ground alone, so the spirit of our team is bigger than any other team I feel, maybe we can even win the title given our motivation level,” said Agha.

He elaborated that most of the Hazara players have limited resources while some of the best talent has left Pakistan for abroad.

On the other hand, tournament chief organiser Sardar Naveed Haider added that the Quetta City team was a way to honour Hazara community.

“They need exposure and we thought this was a good way of giving them the platform. We are glad that they’ve reached the semi-finals,” said Haider.

The semi-finals of the tournament will take place on March 31 and the final will be held on April 2.

Published in The Express Tribune, 30 March 2017

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