When the World Cup dream landed in Pakistan [Express Tribune]

When the World Cup dream landed in Pakistan [Express Tribune]

by Abdul Majid

LAHORE:

There is a lot that has been said, is being said and will be said about Pakistan’s chances of becoming a football powerhouse some day in the distant future. However, if certainty is the criteria, then only one thing can be said for sure, Pakistan football is in shambles.

The Fifa World Cup Trophy Tour visited Pakistan for a day on June 7 and was brought to the city of Lahore for unveiling, but considering the situation of the globally popular game in the country, it won’t be wrong to say that the spark created by the historic event may not turn into a fire.

With a Fifa-appointed Normalisation Committee running the affairs of football in Pakistan, the game’s immediate future in the country isn’t showing any silver lining.

However, the footballers of the country are not backing down from the challenge and believe that the remnants of whatever is left of the beautiful game in Pakistan can be built upon.

Former Pakistan captain Kaleemullah is a close witness of whatever was done to kill football in the country. He has seen Pakistani footballers suffer due to political interference in the affairs of football, which is strictly against the Fifa rules and he has seen the Pakistan Football Federation being banned time and again due to it.

When asked about the feeling of looking at the World Cup Trophy from such close proximity, Kaleemullah was ecstatic.

“It is a wonderful feeling,” said Kaleemullah. “Obviously it is a dream of every footballer to lift this trophy.”

He was hesitant to speak of Pakistan’s chances of ever lifting the Fifa World Cup trophy, but Kaleemullah was hopeful that in the future he sees Pakistan winning the coveted silverware.

“It is a difficult question,” when asked if Pakistan will ever be able to win the World Cup, however, he continued, “but I wish and hope that is becomes possible someday.”

“If football is given the right amount of attention, it is possible. There is no dearth of talent, but we lack even the basic facilities here in Pakistan. If we can just provide facilities, I believe we’ll take less than the expected time to fulfill the dream of a successful national football team.”

Kaleemullah also took the opportunity to vent out against the infighting in PFF and the injustices done to players like him, whose playing careers were ruined due to the former.

“We’ve been suffering for the past 10 to 15 years. There’s no football, the players are jobless, but I have faith in the upcoming generation of Pakistani footballers. I’ve witnessed that they’re more interested in football rather than cricket. But we have nothing to give to them. They need a platform to raise the Pakistani flag higher in football.”

Kaleemullah, meanwhile, has a great advice for the budding footballers of Pakistan.

“I want to tell everyone that as an individual you are not bound by anything. Go play in the UAE, Qatar, Nepal, Turkey, Iraq, even go play for Bangladesh. There are a lot of earning opportunities in football throughout the world if you’re hardworking and talented enough.”

Kaleemullah also favoured the “young” France team as the favourite team to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but his heart wants Brazil to lift the trophy.

Another footballer, who has seen everything that was done to Pakistan football in the last decade or more, Saddam Hussain, believes that the players have only one wish: “Let there be football. We don’t care who organises it, we just need a season-long calendar of football in the country so the players don’t have to suffer.”

The Fifa World Cup trophy was brought to and unveiled in Pakistan by French footballing great Christian Karembeu, who was “excited to bring the trophy, which carries a great legacy” to the country.

“For Coca Cola, the real magic of the FIFA World Cup is connection, sharing your passion for the game beyond boundaries, in a space where unity, diversity and inclusion thrive. We are thrilled to have brought these values and the excitement of the world’s most loved football tournament to Pakistan, a nation of great football fans,” said Vice President Coca-Cola Pakistan and Afghanistan Fahad Ashraf at the unveiling ceremony.

Published in The Express Tribune, 8 June 2022

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