by Fazal Khaliq [Dawn]
MINGORA: Despite meagre facilities, thousands of football fans turned up to witness the final of the Major General Sanaullah Memorial Football Tournament here on Monday.
Prince Football Club Manglore overcame Young Man Amankot 1-0 in the final of the tournament which saw 30 top teams from Swat district take part with General Officer Commanding, Swat, Major General Nadir Khan distributing trophies and prizes at the closing ceremony.
More than the game, though, the tournament was a celebration showcasing the locals’ love for the game.
“We’ve seen every game of the tournament thanks to our great passion for the game,” Khan Azam, a spectator from Mingora, told Dawn.
“Football has been played and watched with passion here since the time Swat was a princely state [till it acceded to Pakistan in 1969]. The state rulers loved the game and constructed many grounds in Swat.”
Mohammad Pervez, the organising secretary of the tournament, told Dawn that the tournament began on November 1.
“We’re really happy that a huge crowd turned up for every match of the tournament as football is the favourite sport of the Swatis,” he said.
Nisar Khan Alias Cemeti, a former Pakistan footballer, said Swati players were the best in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with many of them representing departmental teams.
But as is the case with the rest of the country, the lack of resources was hampering their growth.
“We don’t have any facilities from the government for football and despite few facilities, the youngsters are good at the game due to their passion,” Nisar told Dawn.
“There are only the grounds which were built by the former state rulers and if we are given more facilities, I’m sure this region can give Pakistan international level players.”
Zarak Khan, a player from Manglore, was of the view that the tournament not only provided them with a chance to show their skills but also gave them the opportunity to meet players and people from different areas.
“This isn’t merely a sport but a big source of socialising and promoting peace,” he told Dawn. “Football is a very healthy pastime and we’re always eager for such tournaments as huge crowds come to see us play.”