By Sports Correspondent – Express Tribune
SUKKUR: The street childrem team, which returned from Rio de Janeiro last month after participating in the Street Child Football World Cup, have started their countrywide tour to inspire other children.
“I am from Mauripur, Karachi, and I have received only primary education,” said Sameer Ahmed. “It was impossible for me to even dream about visiting Brazil. But our passion and craze for football made it possible.”
Wearing traditional Sindhi Ajraks, the team arrived at the Children Protection Unit in Sukkur on Tuesday, where they received a warm welcome from the students and teachers.
At the unit, Ahmed shared the team’s experiences with the students. “Believe me, we used to ask each other how could it be possible for us to go to Brazil and play in the football world cup,” said Ahmed. “Even when Azad Foundation and Muslim Hands processed all our documents and told us that you’re going to represent Pakistan in the world cup, we still couldn’t believe our ears.”
“Finally the day came when we flew to Rio de Janeiro and played against other teams and clinched the third position by beating the US,” he recalled, beaming with pride. “Next time, we will try and come first.”
Since most of the families living in Mauripur are poor, the emphasis on education is lacking in the area, felt the children, adding that most children are roaming the streets and playing football, instead of going to school. Ahmed, like other the boys in the area, also plays football most of the time.
When Azad Foundation, a social welfare organisation, along with Muslim Hands, a charity working globally to alleviate poverty, announced a football training camp for street children, 125 players from Mauripur and as well as other areas participated. Around 14 of these players were shortlisted and nine of them were then selected. “Muslim Hands sponsored these street children to go to Brazil and take part in the international event and we are happy they made us proud,” said Rashid Mehmood from Muslim Hands.
“Our children are very talented, and they need proper training and encouragement,” said the coach for the street children team, Abdul Rashid. “I have been coaching the street children team for the past 14 years and I am happy that the talent of my students was finally recognised,” he added. “We don’t have proper playgrounds and other facilities but we can produce world-class players by providing the necessary facilities to them.”
Team member Aurangzeb, who is also a resident of Mauripur, failed to receive education beyond primary school since his family couldn’t afford to pay for him to go to school. Another team member, Rajab lives in Manghopir and did not continue his education past the sixth grade due to his craze for football. “I am interested in playing football rather than other activities so I give more time to football,” he admitted. “I love Brazil because it has produced some of the best football players in the world. Going to Brazil and playing international matches was like a dream come true for me.”
The children began their tour from the Quaid’s mazar on May 5 and, after Sukkur, they will visit Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore, Islamabad, Abbotabad, Azad Kashmir as well as other cities. The purpose of the tour is to create awareness and encourage other street children to also take part in healthier and positive activities.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2014.