By Umaid Wasim – DAWN
KARACHI: In an initiative hoped to give aspiring footballers in Lyari a platform to showcase their talents, the K-Electric (KE) U-16 Lyari League kicked off on Friday.
The league which will see 12 teams from the locality competing for honours is being held in collaboration with Unicef and the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) aims at providing the youngsters a footballing future, away from the gang-war that afflicts the locality known as ‘mini-Brazil’ for its love of the game.
A hub of football talent once, Lyari has suffered badly from the infighting in the drug mafia which has taken hold of the area. Despite several police and military operations, the youth still hasn’t returned to the pitches which once produced some of Pakistan’s greatest players.
The tournament aims to be the agent of change.
“This is the platform that the youngsters of the area need at this moment in time. The tournament will provide a platform for the youth of Lyari to display their footballing talents and hopefully that will keep them away from using drugs and other substances,” KE Chief-of-Staff Usama Qureshi said at a press conference at the Peoples Sports Complex on Friday.
“The event will help engage the youth, providing them much-needed inspiration in these tough times.
Elaborating on the tournament, Usama added: “The tournament will see teams from each of Lyari’s Union Councils (UCs) and a side from Lyari Town fighting it out for the title. The final will be on May 25.”
Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi was also present at the inaugural news conference and lauded the efforts of the organisers.
“This is a very good move to initiate the league in an area which has produced some of Pakistan’s legendary footballers,” Lodhi said. “This tournament will hopefully provide us with new talent who might one day represent the national team.
“Football is the symbol of Lyari and its is very good that people are making efforts to revive the game in the area.”
Lyari MPA Sania Naz, also at the press conference, echoed Lodhi’s views.
“The youth of the area needs such activities,” she said, before adding: “Football has given the people of Lyari a way of living in the past and hopefully it will do the same in the future.”
Although the officials from Unicef and ANF weren’t present at the news conference, KE Sports Head Zabe Khan later told Dawn that he would try to arrange clinics for the participating players from the two bodies.
“They couldn’t come due to security concerns,” Zabe said. “But the main aim of the tournament is to educate the youngsters about the perils of drug abuse and hopefully we’ll try to arrange a visit by officials from Unicef or the ANF during the tournament.”
Teams line up at the inauguration ceremony of the KE-Lyari U-16 League on Friday.—White Star
The brief news conference was followed by the inauguration ceremony under floodlights at the Peoples Sports Complex.
KE football team captain and former Pakistan skipper Mohammad Essa undertook the oath from the participating players as the teams lined up on the centre of the pitch vowing “to promote fairplay and serve the nation”.
With the ceremonies over, the action on the pitch took centre-stage in front of a 500-strong crowd and Lyari Town opened the campaign with a 5-0 rout of UC-9 with a hat-trick by Munir.
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2014