By Afsar Khan
Names of sports stars immediately spring up when we think of cricket, Imran Khan, Miandad, Wasim Akram, Afridi, there are so many that one simply loses count but when it comes to football, often the most ardent of fans sit blank. Although Pakistan has a vibrant diaspora of footballers playing in international leagues but they are unknown in their own country. Few recognize them by face and even fewer by names. Despite less recognition and immense amount of struggles, these football players have stood resilient and made their country proud on many fronts. Here are some of the most inspiring players who give us hope that football in Pakistan will rise one day!
- Kaleemullah Khan
Forward striker Kaleemullah Khan is arguably the first Pakistani footballer to register amongst the masses. Kaleem who originally hails from Balochistan is an avid player and has won great accolades both on national and international platforms. He is the first local player to score 100 career goals in club football after which he did not stop. He came into the spotlight in 2009 when he represented KRL football club and performed phenomenally well, scoring a total of 35 goals in the tournament. He went onto becoming a part of the national football team in 2009 and finally ended up being the captain of the team in 2011. His journey has been nothing short of inspirational and serves as an example for many football enthusiasts across the country.
- Jadeed Khan
The 30 years old midfielder, Jadeed khan, is another gem of Balochistan. Khan has been actively playing the sport since his childhood and despite lack of adequate resources, Jadeed never shied away from pursuing his passion. He got an opportunity of a lifetime in the Ufone Balochistan Football Cup, where he emerged as the top performer, which opened up a new era of opportunities for him. He represented Afghan FC Chaman in the Ufone Football Tournament which is also his hometown team and he has led the squad from 2008 to 2011.
- Riaz Ahmed
For football prodigy, Riaz Ahmed, the journey began at the age of 12 when he became the part of U13 football team. The talented striker and winger, Riaz Ahmed, has taken part in many national tournaments, however, he came into limelight after the Ufone Football Tournament held in Balochistan last year. Riaz outperformed in every game and appalled everybody with his unbelievable talent. What makes him stand out is his commitment to groom a new generation of players in Pakistan therefore he has actively been involved with youth to refine their skills and prepare them for various championships.
- Hassan Bashir
At the age of 18, a football freak stepped onto the field to play his first ever professional tournament, his name was Hassan Bashir and now it’s been more than 13 years since his debut. He is known to be a power striker and has the ability to score goals in the very last minutes of the game. His national and international exposure makes him stand apart and up till now he has played for many clubs including Fremad Amager, Hellerup IK and Fyn in the lower divisions of Denmark.
- Fazal Mohammad
A mechanic by profession but a footballer by passion, Fazal is the perfect example of courage and determination. The 21 years old Fazal belongs to Khuzdar, Balochistan and has always loved playing football but pursuing it professionally seemed a distant reality. In 2010, he came a bit closer to his dream when he got selected in the National Junior Football team where he performed exceptionally well and this helped him to earn a place in the National team as well. He then competed against India, China and Korea, every time making his country proud.
The streak of incredible performances continued for Fazal in Ufone’s football tournament too which was held in Balochistan. He became an icon for hundreds of aspiring footballers of Balochistan and the tournament allowed him to coach them one on one as well. Players like Fazal Mohammad turn out to be a gleaming ray of hope for many ambitious payers who find it hard to pursue their dream.
These inspirational stars prove that there is no dearth of talent in Pakistan; the need is to create such platforms through which their talents can be channelized. Corporates and government entities can work together to make it all happen because once given a chance, our football stars can rule the world!