‘Pakistani Pele’ Abdul Ghafoor gets financial help

by Shazia Hasan [DAWN]

KARACHI: Sindh Minister for Sports Dr Mohammad Ali Shah presented a cheque of Rs 50,000 to Abdul Ghani, son of ailing former Pakistan football team captain Abdul Ghafoor, to use in his father’s medical treatment.

Another sum of Rs100,000 was also announced by the sports minister on behalf of Sindh Governor Dr Ishrat-ul-Ebad Khan at his office here on Thursday afternoon.

Abdul Ghafoor, more popularly known as ‘Majna’ and the ‘Pakistani Pele’ was unopposed captain of the Pakistan football team for 11 years (1974 to 1985).

He suffered brain hemorrhage four years ago and has been paralyzed ever since. That is also the reason why he couldn’t come to accept the cheque in person.

Throwing some light on his father’s illustrious playing career, Abdul Ghafoor’s son Abdul Ghani said that although he mostly played in the midfield he was tried in all other positions, too, except for goalkeeper.

“He was mostly an all-rounder and had many offers to play for clubs in many countries including India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and China, but he turned them down in favour of playing in his country and for his country, and was a member of the famous Dhaka Mohammedan Club in the former East Pakistan,” he informed.

After the fall of Dhaka, several players from Karachi’s Lyari were taken on by the club on his recommendation.

It was six years ago that the football authorities in Bangladesh needed him again to suggest some players from Pakistan to play in their league.

Unfortunately, the letter was sent to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), which never forwarded it to the player and instead sent its own team of boys to Bangladesh.

Abdul Ghafoor’s son said: “I only stumbled upon the truth after those boys return when it was mentioned in football circles here that the authorities in Bangladesh thought that they were there on the great player’s recommendation.”

Under Abdul Ghafoor’s captaincy the Pakistan team beat the national teams of Russia, UAE and China.

Bearing a remarkable resemblance to Brazil’s Pele, he was also called the ‘Pakistani Pele’.

“When the real Pele heard about him, he expressed his desire to meet his double,” the son shared. “But the two have yet to meet,” he added.

Seventy-five years of age now and also being a retired KPT employee, he has been seeing doctors at the KPT Hospital, who seem quite unable to provide him with the kind of treatment he badly needs.

That’s when hearing the legendary player’s plight Dr Mohammad Ali Shah had announced help for the ailing footballer on the Sindh Assembly floor.

Thanking the sports minister for the kind gesture, his son said: “My father is a very proud man. It will kill him to learn that he is being treated like some charity case. I have been advised by friends and family to not even tell him that I am accepting this help. But his pension cannot cover all his expenses. The medicines prescribed for him are very costly. Just one pill costs Rs120, not to mention the other things needed to care for a bedridden person. I am not sure how far this money will go.”

Dr Shah said he would also arrange for a stipend from the Legend’s Fund for which he requested the son to fill an application form. Apart from this they would also arrange for proper free treatment.

“I know that the help being extended is way less than what the national hero deserves. But we have our limitations, too,” he said regrettably while also promising to find the son suitable employment.

Sindh Minister for Katchi Abadies & Spatial Development Rafique Engineer and Sindh Football Association (SFA) Secretary Jan Mohammad Baloch were also present on the occasion.