From our Karachi correspondent Riaz Ahmed
The Pakistan U16 football team, coached by Sajjad Mehmood (KRL) and Hassan Baloch (KESC), returned home from Nepal yesterday 11 August 2011 at Quaid-e-Azam International Airport in Karachi and received a heroes welcome for winning the inaugural SAFF U16 Championship held in Nepal. A large gathering of youths, onlookers, football fans, media journalists, and football officials received the team in boisterous mood and presented flower garlands and cheered the young green guns for their triumph. After a brief stay, the team then departed for Lahore to report back at PFF Football House.
Eager media journalists surrounded the young boys and coaches, eager to learn their first words of victory returning home. Team captain Muneer ul Haq said it was an honour to have played for Pakistan, and he said the boys played extremely well despite the odds and problems of past and won the tournament to gift the whole country on eve of its 64th Independence Anniversary on 14 August. Muneer praised the likes of Muhammad Bilal (4 goals against Maldives), Sher Ali, Muhammad Zeeshan, goalkeeper Usman Khan, and star player Mansoor Khan for being vital in Pakistan’s historic triumph in Nepal.
Muneer hoped that the boys will also repeat their performance in upcoming AFC U16 Championship 2012 qualifiers to be held in Kuwait in September featuring UAE, hosts Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Maldives.
Head coach Sajjad Mehmood said that this historic win showed that the future of football in Pakistan is bright and praised the boys for sticking to the game plans and working for their wins in all of their matches, esp. the two wins over India. Sajjad stated that before the tournament he had promised to win the tournament for Pakistan, and that his promise has been fulfilled by these young talented boys.
Assistant coach Hassan Baloch said the team played as a single unit with full determination and focus to make their country proud in their hour of need, and stated that beating India twice was definitely the team’s high point. Hassan Baloch said this was also a proud moment for him given his own involvement with most of the U16 squad for last many years as part of previous U13 and U14 events in Asia where the team had impressed neutral observers and fans.
Officials from Sindh FA and all Karachi DFAs congratulated the team for their success and offered tremendous words of encouragement. Sindh FA president Khadim Ali Shah, who is also Vice President at PFF and SAFF, was present at the occasion. On behalf of PFF President Faisal Saleh Hayat, Khadim Ali Shah announced the Rs 3 million reward for the whole team as well as declaring that the boys and coaches will also have an audience soon with President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Islamabad to celebrate their triumph.
Others present included Jan Muhammad Baloch (Secretary, Sindh FA), Dr Hameed Baloch (vice president, DFA West), Rahim Bakhsh Baloch (Secretary, DFA West), DFA Central vice presidents ex-international Saleem Patni and M Shamim, DFA Central member Asif Zaheer, DFA East vice presidents M Rahim, Syed Usman Shah, Zameer ul Islam, DFA East secretary Ubaidullah Khan, DFA South chairman Gulab Baloch, DFA Malir secretary Shahid Taj, NBP and national coach Nasir Ismail, journalist Riaz Ahmed, ex-international Ghulam Sarwar Jr, Abbas Baloch, Khalid Majeed, Farrukh Riaz, Junaid Khan et al.
However, Sindh FA secretary Jan Muhammad Baloch voiced his displeasure with media about no government officials and personalities bothering to show up to greet the team for its historic triumph for raising the Pakistan flag on foreign soil and complained that such mentality only shows the negligence football has been battling to overcome in Pakistan for many years.