From Mardan to Lyari: destination Brazil

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ISLAMABAD: Its tendency to amaze the world knows no bounds. Yet, the Pakistani nation remains an underdog. But that has all started to change, slowly but surely.


In 2012, Mohammad Asif of Faisalabad earned a hero’s welcome after cueing his way to the world amateur snooker title in England. A year later, he teamed up with a compatriot Muhammad Sajjad, former Asian number two to defeat Iran in the final of World Amateur Snooker Championship in Ireland. Ordinary children for Karachi’s most stereotyped district, Lyari, stood tall on the victory stand of Street Child World Cup in 2014. Never before Pakistan’s national anthem had been played in a sports field of Rio de Janeiro. The otherwise depressed nation burst into joy. Little do they know that journey to glory has only begun!


Today, six teenagers eagerly await their flight to Brazil. Yes on the same course and for the very well known reason. These four boys and two girls, representing Pakistan’s true diversity from Mardan and Thatta to Lyari, have made it for the sojourn with their hard work and passion for football. While South Americans carnival in Brazilian capital Sao Paulo, the Pakistani teen witness a diverse world united by a made-in-Pakistan ball, the Americans name soccer. Free tickets to the arena aside, the gifted youth engage in a sport-based leadership and football for development evens.


Let alone the Americas, none of the jubilant teens have travelled abroad. For them, the World Cup 2014 is a pilgrimage enough to be part of. Meet the lucky six embarking on exciting journey of ‘Brasil’: Fahad Habib, a student of Jufelhurst Boys School, Lyari, is a loyal Chelsea fan. The 16-year-old was among the finalists for Street Football World Cup squad. He was not so lucky then as now. Ijlal Khan (16) of Government Higher Secondary School Takkar, Mardan, claims to be :a loyal friend in life but loves to dodge on the soccer field.”
Syeda Faiza Shah (15) hails from Thatta and studies a Perfect School & College System. “Sports bridge racial, political, religious and gender gaps,” she opines. Polite and articulate ArhamUllah Khan of Beaconhouse School System, Mardan, dreams of playing for Manchester United someday. His energy and passion may take him much further. Student of Thatta’s Army Public School, Basit Ali (17) is an impeccable defender at the goal post. “Every child must have a chance to get involved in sports and play a constructive role for the society,” he believes.


Soft-natured and articulate Uzma Bano of Lyari aims to promote equal rights for the female children. Besides being a soccer playe, the 17-year-old is a bright student at Al Qadir Model English School. Two adult chaperones will facilitate the Pakistani squad, sponsored by the Qatari government and executed by Right to Play – a top sport-for-development organization NGO – as part of a long term youth leadership program ‘Generation Amazing’.


An initiative of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy in collaboration with Right To Play, the Generation Amazing Youth Ambassador Programme is a leadership and football development project. Right To Play, a global organization working through use of transformative power of play to educate and empower children facing adversity, has been actively engaged in Pakistan’s disaster-hit and conflict-affected region for years. Besides the half a dozen teens and their two mentors, a thousand odd Pakistanis have also started to reach Brazil to enjoy the most beautiful sport. Who knows the ‘team Pakistan’ may make its mark on the soccer field in the next world cup beyond stitching the world’s best footballs. This nation and its ambitions are so young!



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