A report from Syed Ali Bilgrami on a recent match in Karachi between our partner Azad Foundation’s Street Strikers FC, and Karachi United Football Club (click here for a gallery):
“Former Argentine player and coach César Luis Menotti once said, “Football is a game of freedom, vision and feelings. Football makes me happy. When I get onto a football pitch and a football is at my feet then I must play. The stadium is a place for creativity.” Such freedom, vision, creativity and feelings were on display when Karachi United Football Club (KUFC) entertained Street Strikers Football Club in a match organized by Azad Foundation (AF) in cooperation with UNICEF at PAD Ground Cliffton, Karachi on 21 December 2012.
“This match was organized in accordance with Universal Children’s Day celebrated every year across the globe to honour the rights of the younglings to groom them for the responsibility of carrying their nations in future. This match was a part of Azad Foundation’s Sports for Development strategy adopted to support its Outreach Programme (in accordance with UNCRC article#31 – providing healthy sports and games opportunities to this most underprivileged group).
“KUFC’s team comprised of Under 16 children engaged in their regular ongoing coaching programme, whereas it was only the second competitive outing for Street Strikers FC, a team comprising of children connected with the streets of Karachi. Mr. Habib Ullah volunteered for the role of match referee.
“Even before the start, the match was tipped to be a direct contest between KUFC’s attack vs. the goal keeper of SSFC. In a fast and thrilling encounter, Salman Nasir playing as GK for the first time, despite getting very little help from his inexperienced defenders, relived Mark Lawrenson’s quote: “If you’re a goalkeeper, it doesn’t matter what you save the ball with – if you keep it out, it’s not a goal”. KUFC’s quick movements on and off the ball clearly indicated the importance of regular practice at a young age. They tested Salman’s skills on numerous occasions throughout the match. Although Salman’s heroics were insufficient to salvage his team, his performance gave a lot of confidence to his teammates as they unexpectedly bagged two good goals from quick counter attacks.
“Football in its entirety is not just about the players and the officials. The cheering, booing, emotions from the crowd are a necessity for making football matches spectacular. This match was also a treat as amongst the beats of music and colorful banners, nearly 300 personnel from different walks of life enjoyed this match. The crowd encouraged both teams to put in their best and was rewarded by some great performances from the players. At half time, the participants were entertained by some exciting juggling skills by a young player from KUFC’s squad. The match was covered by several electronic and print media. They interviewed players from both teams. The children expressed how much they have enjoyed playing this match against each other. Ovais Rehmat, captain of SSFC, speaking with the media, said, “Today was a special occasion for us. It was exciting to see the support and encouragement given by everyone, even when we lost the game. I can’t promise that we will win each and every game but I can certainly assure that winning will always be the only thing in our minds whenever we go out to play from now on.”
“Mr. Afaq Durrani, Director of Sports KMC along with Mr. Naveed Hassan Khan, the CEO of Azad Foundation and Mr. Syed Itfan Maqbool, Head of Programmes at Azad Foundation, presented shields among the players from both teams and encouraged them to carry on their good work.”
“It was a privilege to be invited to the launch of the Street Child World Cup at Downing Street. It gives children a voice through football, a platform to express their rights and celebrate their abilities – I’m proud to add my support.”
“It was possible to gather many nationalities, cultures, and form a nation: a nation of free man, with equal rights and opportunities, mutual respect, rightful duties. It was 10 days when the world, in that corner of Rio, was fair to socially excluded children; they could feel the beauty of being somebody in this world.”
“I know from personal experience just what power football can have to inspire and change young people’s lives whatever their background or nationality. This is what the Street Child World Cup is all about and I give it my full support.”