Football is indeed a beautiful game and certainly a global sport for decades. People love to watch and play football even in Pakistan where Cricket is the most popular sports. From the broken down alleys of the African and South American slums to the modernized and massive arenas of Western Europe, Football is a multi-billion-dollar industry across the world. In Pakistan, the interest in this particular game is also very evident. Pakistan has an interesting, although underachieving, football history. It is strange how despite football’s widespread demand among the masses within the country, it has failed to reach the same elevations as hockey and cricket. It is not peculiar to ask a common Pakistani about the national football team and in return, gets a blank stare.
In South Asia, football was introduced in the mid-19th Century. The purpose to introduce this game in the region was morale raising for British troops during the British Raj. With the passage of time, it has captured the attention of many in the sub-continent. Soon after independence in 1947, Pakistan inherited the football infrastructure. At that time, there was an evident need to create a countrywide football association. To meet this need Calcutta-based Indian Football Association and the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) was established. The Pakistan Football Federation hence came into existence on December 5, 1947, and turned out to be a full member of FIFA in early 1948. Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was its Patron-in-Chief. This shows the importance of this game as well as the interest of the Government to promote it. In 1960, failure to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup was the first of many vicissitudes. The pessimism was to some extent lifted in the early half of the 1980s. After the inception of the Pakistan premier league, things seemed to be moving in the right direction but it was for a very short time period. Politics and personal clashes altogether destroyed the infrastructure, which was already very fragile. There is immense potential in the youth of Pakistan. Karachi always takes a lead in football-related activities. Lyari is indeed the hub of producing eminent football players for Pakistan. Footballers are highly paid athletes but on the contrary, in Pakistan, the amount that players get is not enough to continue with their livelihood.
Several female footballers, including national team captain Hajra Khan, have joined hands to raise a collective voice against the ongoing crisis in Pakistan football that has led to the country’s suspension from FIFA. The players issued a joint video statement on Monday to condemn the hostile takeover of PFF house by a “political group” and demanded that those responsible for governing the game should respect players’ rights.
Lack of motivation is another factor why football in Pakistan is continuously failing to achieve its position when we compare it with the interest level of the youth. Pakistan needs to improve the quality of the domestic league while incorporating more sponsorship. There is a need to improve football infrastructure in the country. The foremost thing is to improve playing conditions to meet the criteria of international standards otherwise our players would never be able to compete internationally. Pakistan football federation should come up with the idea of building academies for comprehensive and professional training. The welfare of the players is an important phenomenon. Training facilities and proper nutrition for players are also important. Finally yet importantly, there is a need to avoid politics. Such things can swallow the roots and infrastructure of football in Pakistan.