Exclusive report by our Islamabad Editor – Sohaib Hassan.
Quetta, 1 April 2017: The 2nd PPL Balochistan Football Cup 2017 second semi-final at Ayub Stadium in Quetta on 31 March saw a stunning upset as DFA Panjgur beat the defending champions DFA Quetta 2-1. The closely fought game, televised live on Geo Super, saw the Makran underdogs stun everyone with their flair and passion to beat the hosts at their own turf.
The whole team was ecstatic and absolutely amazed to have gone this far in the event when contacted over this amazing achievement. The team manager, Jumma Khan, spoke on their players behalf:
Q. How has PPL Balochistan Cup 2017 journey been for DFA Panjgur team reaching the final?
Ans: Alhamdulillah it is the effort of our boys, they practiced hard for this tournament. We tried to give our best as we wanted to win. We played every match as a final match and here we are today. We couldn’t even control ourselves, in fact our captain Abdullah fell unconscious after today’s match but thankfully it was just emotions and exhaustion. We cannot describe our happiness at the moment.
Q. Which teams this year have impressed you the most?
Ans: Although Pasni didn’t even qualified for the final round from Makran but we enjoyed playing with them very much. The league stage matches that we played against DFA Pasni are unforgettable. The other team we liked was DFA Kharan. They performed exceptionally well throughout and were unfortunate not to reach the semi-finals.
Q. How crazy is Panjgur (and Makran region) about football?
Ans: Our entire region is crazy for football. Our people love football so much that they do not care about anything like proper grounds, proper playing kits, shoes or other necessities. All we need is a football and that is the only element of happiness in our lives.
Q. What kind of challenges do you face as players to make a career in football there? Has the security situation there had a negative impact on football in Panjgur and rest of Makran?
Ans: The main challenge is poverty. Most of our players are just daily wage labourers who see football as a means of having some enjoyment in their lives. They have to work day and night to earn themselves living. The ones that aren’t labourers or are financially stable don’t play good football because they are free from the troubles we face. Right now the security situation in Makran is much better, but in the past few years it effected the game quite much. Crowds avoided any football matches when thousands used to attend in past. Even teams from nearby places couldn’t travel to other areas to play with others because of security fears. We couldn’t even play openly at our grounds or nearby areas. Now we hope situation continues to improve and we can bring football back its joy in Makran.
Q. We often call Panjgur vs Turbat (and also Gwadar) as the “Makran Derby” because of the cities being linked to each other. Is there an actual football/sports rivalry between teams from Panjgur, Turbat, Gwadar in Makran?
Ans: Yes you can say. Mainly its Panjgur vs Turbat. We have our own fans, own grounds and there is always a good crowd whenever we play against each other in local tournaments. Sometimes the fans are more loyal with their favorite players than the clubs they play for locally. We enjoy playing with Turbat, they are good and healthy opponents. Beating them 5-1 in quarter-finals was special for us as well.
Q. The Quetta Police Training College attack last year killed 61 cadets – and most of them were from Panjgur. News came out that many of them were footballers who were likely selected in Police on sports quota. Did you know any of the martyred victims? How did attack impact on footballers from Panjgur and your team’s preparations for PPL Balochistan Cup 2017?
Ans: Yes, we knew many of the martyrs of Quetta Police College attack from Panjgur. They used to play with us and were like brothers. When we got the news of attack, there were a couple of football tournaments going on in our area and we were also participating. And then we came to knew that our fellow players that went to police for training are no more. We called off the tournament and went in deep sadness and it took us many weeks to come back into the game. Now football clubs there are named after those fellow players.
Q. Have any of you played internationally for Pakistan at any level (senior or junior)? Have any major department teams approached you based on your performances in PPL 2017?
Ans: No, our entire team consists of local players. Not even one of them has played at national level. But we have heard that some departments are interested in couple of our players and have asked us to send in their data. Lets see what happens. It would mean a lot if some of the departments recruit our players and grant them some financial security to focus purely on football and improve themselves.
Q. If Panjgur managed to reach the final and even win this year, what would it mean for you as players and for your city?
Ans: It would be a great deal for us and for our people back there. For us, playing on national television is an achievement. The people of our area made special arrangements to watch the semi-final with DFA Quetta live. They were very happy and very supportive of our efforts. And winning the final would be something unbelievable. We know DFA Chaman are very strong favourites, but we will give Chaman a good fight. Our hopes are high for the final.
Q. when people talk of Balochistan football, they always talk of Chaman, Quetta, and Nushki being major football hubs. Do you think your team’s efforts highlight that other regions in province should also be taken seriously for their love of football?
Ans: You have seen the crowd yourself. Every team here has fans but Chaman is a team that everyone loves and support across Pakistan. And why shouldn’t they? They have international and popular players like Hayatullah in their team. Last year we couldn’t even reach the final round, we were relegated in the league stage. But this year we worked hard and an underdog team of the tournament made it to the final after defeating last year champion. There were other good teams in the tournament like Kharan, Nushki, Turbat. They couldn’t make it further but we have. Every team can show case good football if supported and taken seriously. We are thankful to Pakistan Petroleum Limited for providing us this opportunity and bringing this day to our lives.
Panjgur face Balochistan’s mighty DFA Chaman (losing finalists in 2016) in the final scheduled for 2 April at Ayub Stadium and will also be broadcast live on Geo Super.