by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI / QUETTA: Monday’s terror attack on the Police Training College in Quetta represents tragedy on a monumental scale and nowhere is this truer than in the case of football as three of the country’s ace strikers lost their lives during the siege.
Hundreds of police cadets and recruits were stationed at the college in the city outskirts when masked gunmen carried out the raid late Monday night, which lasted for nearly five hours. At least 61 people have died and more than 110 were injured in the grisly assault.
Football striker Sartaj Ghani, goalkeeper Mehboob Baloch and midfielder Nadil Murad were among the dead. Their funeral prayers were held on Wednesday. Another footballer, Galib Ameer, who was also injured in the attack, was on his way to Karachi for treatment.
Sartaj, 19, who joined the Police Training Centre just seven months ago, had played his last match on October 19 for his club – the Young Baloch FC, while Nadil was in the B team of the club.
Mehboob, who hails from Panjgur, was recognised for his exceptional skills as goalkeeper. Even international midfielder, Saadullah, remembered the youngster’s love for the sport. The three footballers were receiving training at the college to become police officers.
“It is just… I really can’t talk right now, but Sartaj was a footballer. He loved the game,” Sartaj’s paternal uncle Abdul Ghafoor told The Express Tribune.
“His father really can’t talk either, we aren’t in the position to, except that he was 19, he had joined the training centre seven months ago and he was the oldest of the six children. We’ve had his funeral today.”
Sartaj’s father worked in the health department and was a vaccinator, according to Young Baloch FC owner and District Football Association secretary Ghani Baloch, who has seen Sartaj and Nadil grow up right in front of his eyes.
“We still can’t believe it,” said Ghani Baloch. “It’s shocking and we are still absorbing it. Sartaj was a great talent. I still have his performance playing in my head that he delivered on October 19.
Ghani Baloch said 10-day mourning will be observed in Turbat and added that they have cancelled all football activities.
“It is sad; there really isn’t much we can say. I remember Mehboob, I saw him play a few months ago in Zhob. These youngsters have a passion for football. The sports community is definitely in shock and sad on this, especially in Balochistan where we’ve had two major terrorist attacks this year alone,” said Saadullah, who is based in Pishin.
Mehboob Baloch was a member of the Bonistan Football Club of Panjgur and had left behind a large number of football fans to mourn his untimely death. He had represented his club in all major tournaments of the province.
He was called to Quetta a week ago and was to be assigned duty in the federal capital in connection with the PTI’s November 2 sit-in, his family sources told The Express Tribune by telephone. His father Rehmat Baloch told The Express Tribune that he was an honest and kind gentleman.