Gifted footballer killed in Lyari operation

KARACHI: The Lyari operation may have halted for now but reminders of the destruction it caused, financially and of lives, are etched onto the residents’ minds.

Among the 40-odd people killed, there was one Mohammad Asif, nicknamed ‘Pele’ for his talent with a football as a football love-affair came to an abrupt and brutal end during the police operation. The police is being blamed for the bullet wound on the head as he attempted to rescue children on the street as a sudden exchange of shots broke out.

Mohammad Asif (Lyari Labour Welfare Centre FC) killed in Lyari police operation

As the dust settles, residents estimate the damage and tales begin to emerge with regards to the sports community which has produced a number of legends.

The great athletes produced by Lyari include the only Olympics medallist in boxing, Hussain Shah, Asian Games gold medallist Mehrullah Lassi and football legends like Turab Ali, Abdul Ghafoor and Captain Umer.

But as locals organised indoor foosball events, and as boxing clubs were used by locals gangs to escape the police, Asif met his tragic fate. He was due to get married after Eid.

Playing for the Lyari Labour Welfare Centre (LLWC) Football Club, he earned the nickname despite being in his mid-thirties.

“Asif had no links or interest in politics and football was his only passion,” said Asif’s teammate Abdul Rehman. “His death has closed a chapter of football enthusiasm which is very unfortunate for us. Asif was very talented, it was because of his skills and passion that we used to call him Pele.

He was unlucky not to get exposure at a higher level because he had all the required ingredients to become a top footballer.”

Another teenage footballer Asif Ali was injured during the operation. The 17-year old, a member of the Young Kalakot Club, was shot in the thigh but survived, vowing to revive his career after recovering.

“My passion for football won’t die despite the bullet wound,” he said.

Association wants an end to killing spree

An international boxer Javed Jaan was also injured in the operation as a senior official of the Sindh Football Association (SFA) called for an end to the operation.

“The people of Lyari are passionate about sports,” said football organiser and the SFA official Mohammad Yaqoob. “You can gauge their love from the fact that they restarted sports activities as soon as the guns went silent. Sports have saved them from many criminal activities including drug addiction. There might be criminals living in Lyari but not all those living here are involved. There must be some other way they can tackle these criminals which will spare innocent lives.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2012. By Fawad Hussain