The Pakistani football fan must look like a strange creature to an outsider. The fact that there is hardly any sporting action happening locally, we root for teams just as hard as any football fan anywhere in the world. We support global teams, dissect league championships, tweet our views religiously and get into fights with friends (and strangers alike) that don’t support the same team we do or disagree with us. Maybe the outsiders are not too far off in their assessment of thinking of us as off-kilter.
Nevertheless, these trivialities do not stop us from having a hopeful outlook or keeping a wish-list of things that we need to witness in Pakistan. Our top contenders for the question ‘What does a Pakistani fan really need’ are below.
- Pakistan’s national team becoming a strong contender and actively and regularly participating in international level championships especially the World Cup and Olympics.
- Facilitation of football tournaments at all levels: schools, colleges, neighborhoods, regional, provincial, national, international…and any other level in between. Pakistan’s street children footballers surprised and pleased everyone when returned home with the bronze medal for 2014 Street Child World Cup played in Brazil.
- Investment in sports infrastructure with rehabilitation of existing grounds and fields and construction of new spaces. Provision of facilities like equipment and coaching.
- Strengthening of the Pakistan Football leagues. (Pakistan Premier League, the highest football division in Pakistan) has 16 teams as of 2010, but has been defunct since 2014–15.) We’ve done a wonderful job of promoting cricket with Pakistan Super League (PSL), the same franchise-based format should be and can be replicated for football.
- International players and teams visiting Pakistan regularly for championships. Football fans emotions ran amok when Brazil’s Ronaldinho and a host of other former top footballers visited Pakistan in July 2017 to play an exhibition match in Pakistan in a push to encourage people to take up the game.
- More local, (and of course talented) players signing international contracts and playing in American and European Leagues. Kaleemullah Khan, the current captain for the national football team became the first Pakistani player to be signed by international team, but we hope to see many other players joining Kaleemullah’s name too with the list growing bigger with passing time.
- Sports and politics will forever remain separate with one having no affect on the other. Decisions and selections are made on merit as it is in interest to everyone to support and develop the best talent in the country.
- Football players become ambassadors for the country presenting a softer image of the country with fans proudly supporting and cheering for the local team.
- Promotion of diversity in the game – particularly inclusion of talented but ignored groups like youth from Lyari or Balochistan and women. Captain of the women’s team Hajra Khan has proved that a Pakistani woman can achieve what any Pakistani man has in this “male-dominated sport”.
- Pakistan being part of international events like the anticipated FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour. This wish of ours will actually come true on February 03, 2018 when Coca-Cola in partnership with FIFA brings the Trophy, football’s most coveted prize, to the country for the first time ever. This is a historical moment for Pakistan and exhilarating for local football fans.
As the last item on the above wish-list comes true, we can’t help but feel positive and hope we get to witness the realization for rest of our desires soon. Till that happens though, we are getting ready for the excitement of the FIFA fever.