KARACHI: A group of well-built men arrived at the Karachi airport on Thursday morning, talking in different languages but in pursuit of the same purpose: to help flood victims in Sindh. Former footballers from Germany, New Zealand and America are joining in the relief efforts already being carried out by The Gift of the Givers Foundation (GOTG) in Pakistan.
The former footballers include Germany’s Lutz Pfannenstiel, Sven Kuhn, David Jurgen Felix Riedel, Congo DR international Michel Dinzey, American footballer Anthony Harry Sanneh and New Zealand’s former star striker Wynton Whai Alan Rufer. Lutz’s wife, Amalia Pfannenstiel from Uzbekistan, is also accompanying the team.
The GOTG claims to be the largest African disaster relief organisation. After the Pakistani government appealed for foreign assistance on August 7, the foundation decided to reactivate its networks in Pakistan, which were set in place after the 2005 earthquake.
The Karachi branch of the foundation is a team of young volunteers who have distributed relief goods worth Rs30 million to flood survivors in Thatta, Sujawal, Badin, Gularchi and the Razzaqabad relief camp in Karachi.
The chairman and founder of the foundation, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, returned to Pakistan on Thursday after an earlier visit this Ramazan. This time he was accompanied by German media persons and a group of footballers.
The footballers were met by a modest crowd, who greeted them with rose garlands.
“We’ve got medicines and water and also sports clothes from some of the clubs,” said New Zealand’s Rufer.
Lutz expressed his sympathy and compassion for the Pakistanis hit by the floods, adding that they wanted to do their part in the relief efforts.
“I know if I were in trouble people would help me, and [also] this is a chance to let people of the world know what’s going on and hopefully get more help here,” said Sanneh.
Most of them wish to go back to their countries and start an awareness campaign about the flood situation in Pakistan.
Some of the footballers are working with a German NGO, Kids Are Our Number One, and were contacted by the GOTG chairman earlier this month. Dr Sooliman visited the flood-affected areas during Ramazan and realising the magnitude of the disaster, decided to get more people involved.
GOTG representative Sofia explained that they wanted to get the German media involved so that people in Germany too can learn about what is happening in Pakistan and how badly the floods have affected people here.
“We’ve tried to get the German media’s interest so that Pakistan can get more funds,” she said.
The footballers were accompanied by two journalists from Germany. The team will head out before dawn on Friday towards Dadu. There they will be joined by a German electronic media crew that plans to film a documentary in the flood-hit areas of Dadu. “The documentary will be aired on different TV channels in Germany,” GOTG chief coordinator in Sindh, Neelum Shabir, told The Express Tribune, “This will help create awareness in Germany about Pakistan’s flood situation.”
The team plans to visit Dadu, Khairpur Nathan Shah, Mehar, Kakkar and Sehwan with relief goods for at least 1,500 families and deliver these goods personally. These are the areas that were hit most recently, Shabir explained, which is why we want to visit them.
The plan is to spend two nights in Dadu and then head back to Karachi on Sunday, said Shabir, adding that they had decided to go by road because “an aerial view doesn’t tell you what’s going on and we want to see the situation on the ground”.
Shabir said that the Karachi team of volunteers started out with just 10 people but now they have 25 members and “more want to join”. Most of the donations that are transferred to GOTG’s account come from South Africa. The volunteers then take this money and buy needed items. They also collect donations in Karachi and pack cartons for flood-affected families.
[Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2010.]
* Wynton Rufer is perhaps the most renowned name of the group. He was member of the New Zealand national team in their first ever FIFA World Cup appearance back in 1982. He also helped German club Werder Bremen win the 1991-92 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. For his achievements, Wynton Rufer was declared the Oceania Footballer of the Century.
* Tony Sanneh was an important player for USA national team in the 2002 FIFA World Cup which reached the quarterfinals. He was also part of the USA team that won the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
* German goalkeeper Lutz Pfannenstiel’s well-travelled career has seen him play for 25 clubs around the world in Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and both North/South America. He played for Germany at the U17 level as a youth.
* Michél Mazingu-Dinzey took part in the 2004 African Nations Cup for the Congo DR national team. He played his club career mostly in Germany for teams like VfB Stuttgart, FC St. Pauli, 1860 Munich etc with a short loan stint in Norway at Vålerenga.