To football or not to football!

By Gauhar Mahmood Azeem

Making it big in football demands not only great love for the game but also great desire, utmost effort and complete determination. Only if a person gives it his all can he become a star amongst millions who desire to do so.

Students in schools and colleges of Pakistan are football crazy. Pitches are teemed with young fellows wearing the jerseys of their football idols and playing the beautiful game. The passion with which they are seen arguing on football matters in the corridors makes their love for the game unquestionable.

So where does it go wrong? Why don’t these schools and colleges provide an unending stream of football talent, using which Pakistan can compete with the elite of world football?

The answer is in the second half of my opening statement for this article. They lack the desire, effort and determination to make it big!

And why would they have these qualities. A life of struggling to make ends meet, no mass recognition, maltreatment and all that with big a risk of injury and the sorts excites me not. All these things are part of the life of a footballer in Pakistan.

People say there is a lack of proper football academies in Pakistan who take care of the youth and that the players are not being trained properly. My argument is that even if you multiply exponentially the academies in Pakistan, a football career here will still be that attractive and no more.

Parents of talented youth would rather see their child pursue a graduation in… well anything but try to spend his life training his heart out to become a football star. After all the game in Pakistan is not professional yet, semi professional at best. And a semi effort with a mediocre motivation might make football players but never make football stars!

What we need to do is bring some money in the game for the footballer; after all he is the one doing it all out there. When Wayne Rooney earns almost Rs. 120 million a month and Muhammed Essa Rs. 40,000 there is a difference, that of cosmic proportions, we observe. This also reflects rather determines the international standings of the nations.

I don’t buy the argument that Pakistan is a poor country. If a doctor in England earns 2000 pounds a month, so do many, many Pakistani doctors. If a South African cricketer gets a central contract of 100,000 dollars an year, so does the top Pakistani cricketer.

And football has a great market. Fans in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and all the other big cities buy European Replica jerseys for hefty sums. We should go all out to capture a portion of that market, and that is all possible. Thus not let our money being drained out of the country rather than helping football grow and bring money to our shores from abroad.

What the big companies and sponsors in Pakistan need to realize is that the market is completely un-tapped. Even though millions and millions of people in Pakistan play and watch football, the potential has not been capitalized on. A proper management and intelligent investment will surely return benefits in the multi-fold. Geo Super Football league for example. Everyone knows the role KESC and Geo Super played in its organization.

Or we can think big, maybe on the lines of the disgraced Lalit Modi. The guy has single handily multiplied by many the pay checks of all Indian cricketers. It’s not like India doesn’t have security threats and bomb blasts. But how did he do it? He used his brain and gave it his all, that’s how!

The benefits the Pakistan Premier League can offer to a sponsor are immense as well. The system is there, organization is good and everything is ready for it to be taken to the next level.

That all being said the need of the hour is to bring money and to bring professionalism in Pakistani football. We need to reward the players, not anyone else. We need to give the players a message that if you give it your all and perform well you will have a life to envy.

Only then will parents allow their talented children to pursue football. Only then will the children fight to become stars. Only then we might have a finished article like that of Messi or Ronaldo. Only then will we have done justice to Pakistani football.

We should make adopting the game so attractive so that the question ‘to football or not to football’ is never asked again.

The argument that we have made immense progress should take a back seat even if we have, and in a lot of ways we have. But the reality is that we stand nowhere. We should all be singing ‘there is a long way to go still’ and get our heads down and work our socks off to achieve what we see elsewhere and dream about.