Football pioneer Usman Baloch (1951-2012) by Riaz Ahmed

Football pioneer Usman Baloch (1951-2012) by Riaz Ahmed

One of Pakistan’s most renowned football organisers and personalities, Usman Baloch, lost his life in a tragic road accident on Wednesday, 21 Nov 2012 in the vicinity of Malir Police Station in Karachi. He was returning back to his home in Daud Goth (Malir) after attending a Korangi Baloch (Sharafi) vs Hyderi Baloch game at the Shafi XI Stadium, when his vehicle collided with a speeding truck and died on the spot.

The 61 year old football lover left behind a widow, 2 sons, and 3 daughters. His funeral prayers were offered today at Masjid-e-Hanafia, Daud Goth and he was buried at the Dilbod Goth Graveyard in Malir, Karachi. A large number of football personalities from Sindh FA, all five Karachi DFAs, and KUFF/FPDC man Riaz Ahmed attended his funeral and paid glowing tributes to the late Usman Baloch for his commitment, passion, and love of football. They all felt Usman Baloch’s sudden demise robbed Pakistani football of a real gem.

Usman Baloch was born in his native Karachi neighbourhood in Daud Goth, Malir on 1 March 1951. He did his matriculation from N.J.V. School on M.A. Jinnah Road, intermediate from Allama Iqbal College Malir, and his B.Ed from Karachi University. He began his football career for his local side Malir Mohammadan as a goalkeeper. After ending his playing career, Usman Baloch became a national referee and officiated matches throughout Pakistan, and also helped organise many major and minor tournaments.

In 1984, Usman Baloch visited Calcutta (Kolkata) to help organise a proposed visit of a football team from Karachi. However, the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took place at the same time and he was left stranded in India where Usman Baloch spent upto 3 months in jail due to legal complications. On his return, Usman Baloch found that he was fired from his teaching post at the Education Department because he had gone to India without properly notifying his superiors. Despite his efforts for a reinstatement, the Education Department refused to give Usman Baloch his job back.

This forced to consider becoming a full-time football organiser and joined hands with Habib Bank (HBL) sports officer Haji Zakariya. He helped organise a floodlit tournament during Ramazan for Malir Mohammadan in Karachi. During this time, Riaz Ahmed had joined Malir Mohammadan as a goalkeeper. The success of the Captain Umer Benefit Football Cup in 1986 organised by Usman Baloch and Haji Zakariya helped raise Rs 1 lakh for the ailing Pakistani football legend captain Muhammad Umer.

Usman Baloch, Haji Zakariya, and Riaz Ahmed joined hands to organise plenty of successful tournaments sponsored by companies like Brooke Bond, Lipton, and Embassy Filter alongside successful Police Gold Cup and Habib Gold Cup events.

However, it was in 1990 when Usman Baloch became famous when he organised a series of Lifebuoy Champions Football Cup tournaments across Pakistan whose finals were then broadcast live on Pakistan Television (PTV). This was the first time in Pakistani football history that local club games were televised nationwide, thanks in no small part to Usman Baloch.

In 1992, Usman Baloch helped sign a Rs 35 million deal with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for the Lifebuoy Football League. He was aided in this mega event by PFF Secretary Hafiz Salman Butt however the event was cut short owing to disagreements with the then PFF President Mian Muhammad Azhar. The deal’s premature end meant that Pakistani football never again got the chance to take off.

However, Usman Baloch kept his relations with Lifebuoy intact and organised numerous tournaments in many small towns and villages across Pakistan. These events brought forward many unknown faces that ended up joining the major department football sides that gave them job security. The likes of Qazi Ashfaq, Haroon Yousaf. Imtiaz Butt, Amjad Zakariya joined WAPDA while HBL, Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB), Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Sindh Govt Press (SGP), Karachi Port Trust (KPT) also took on many players discovered in these tournaments. For this, Usman Baloch has always been respected and adored by the football community.

In 1991, Usman Baloch’s protege Riaz Ahmed helped organise the All-Karachi Usman Baloch Invitational Football Tournament at the latter’s club U.P.Gymkhana FC (North Karachi). The tournament was held at a time of ethnic tensions across Karachi but Usman Baloch’s name went beyond ethnic divisions and attracted 15 major department teams from across the city to play in a predominantly Urdu-speaking part of Karachi. The tournament saw HBL beat National Bank (NBP) in the final to be crowned champions.

Usman Baloch was also appointed as manager of Lahore’s Wohaib FC in 1993 when it visited Bahrain to play in the old Asian Club Champions Cup.

1994 also marked the end of Lifebuoy’s football deal and it left Usman Baloch with some financial troubles. However, he was steadfast in his dedicated to football and brought Tapal into football to organise numerous football events across Pakistan. However, after a booming first year with Tapal, Usman Baloch could only organise events in Balochistan’s Makran division districts of Panjgur, Turbat, and Gwadar where they became a regular fixture for years. However in 2010, Tapal’s new management ended their relationship with football to focus on cricket events. Usman Baloch was also part of the organising staff for the Geo Super Football League events of 2007 and 2010.

When Malir became one of the five districts of Karachi in 1994, DFA Karachi chairman M.M.Mehdi appointed Usman Baloch as the general secretary of the DFA Malir Working Committee. Afterwards, Usman Baloch remained part of DFA Malir in various senior positions.

Before his untimely death, Usman Baloch was working as a senior member of DFA Malir where he had full faith and authority from president Fateh Muhammad Baloch and secretary Shahid Taj. Fateh Muhammad Baloch spoke about Usman’s work ethic and said, “Whenever Usman was given a task to take charge, we would just lie back and let him do whatever had to be done without any problem”.

Usman Baloch was also preparing for a mega-event with sponsors PARCO (Pak Arab Refinery Co.) but his death stopped him from seeing his efforts become a success. May the departed soul rest in peace.

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