by Ayhan Sayani
Football, over the years, has established its own sub-culture in Pakistan, becoming a second language of sorts in the streets. Unfortunately, not everyone has the financial assets to fully nurture their skills, in the game.
On the 16th of February 2019, Reachoutt Pakistan, partnered with Coach Emad Football Academy (CEFA), to organize the “Champions Cup 2019” in order to raise funds for over 150 young footballers in Lyari. It was a single-match tournament played between the top footballers from Karachi Grammar School, The Lyceum, Nixor and Southshore.
In the days leading up to the event, the match received recognition from Pakistan’s most famous celebrities – the likes of Strings, Ahsan Khan, Sanam Jung and Mashal Khan included – who endorsed the noble cause on social media. The event did not only have celebrity endorsement, but it also partnered with the hottest restaurants in Karachi: Burger Bros and SÓL.
The usually empty Rahat football ground was packed with teenagers who had come out in hordes to support their respective schools on Saturday evening. Apart from them, a large part of the ground was occupied by youngsters from CEFA, who not only came to watch the two teams play, but also received a standing ovation at the opening ceremony. The evening’s chief guests, Hajra Khan and Kaleemullah Khan, both captains of Pakistan’s national football teams, watched with serious intent and admiration from start to finish.
KGS and Lyceum vs Southshore and Nixor was always going to be an exciting match, and the game stayed true to that expectation. Bold tackles, brave crosses and daring shots by both sides immediately established a tense atmosphere.
For much of the first half, both teams failed to find the net until, Mikaeel Sayeed from The Lyceum was able to beautifully finish a pass by Saif Ali from KGS, securing the lead in the dying minutes of the opening half.
The second half followed with as much promise as the first, with KGS and Lyceum looking to safeguard their lead and Nixor and Southshore looking for a chance to equalize. It was a hard-fought match but at the end of 90 minutes the men in yellow emerged victorious, defending their early lead. Saif Ali from Karachi Grammar School was declared man of the match for an outstanding midfield performance.
It was the sheer hard work of the event organizers, coupled with the love within everyone present, that made Champions Cup 2019 such a success. Sports becomes the uniting factor in an otherwise unstable equation. It brings us together for a common cause, forcing us to put aside our social political, and religious differences. These kids, whether they are from CEFA or KGS, are the ambassadors of the game in Pakistan and it is our collective duty to provide them with the necessary facilities for them to hone their skills.
The tournament was the first of many such endeavors aimed at raising awareness about the importance of football to the younger generations, especially those who are not as financially privileged as others. Hamed Shah, a player from the winning team concluded, “I’ve played with a lot of kids from these areas and there’s so much potential. The only problem is the immense lack of funding for football development in Pakistan. There is a need for organisations like CEFA, that promote sports and education, because they enable these kids to stay away from bad habits that the other local kids may pressure them into and allow them to live up to their potential.”