The Crete assignment [TNS]

The Crete assignment [TNS]

by Fawad Hussain

Last year we wanted Pakistan to have its slot in the Socca World Cup and this year we want to make our presence felt, says Shahzaib Trunkwala

Shahzaib Mehmood Trunkwala says that this year Pakistan socca team has been prepared after rigorous process and team LLP has left no stone unturned to establish the best team possible for the upcoming Six-a-side Socca World Cup.

“Last year we wanted our team to be there and represent Pakistan and portray a soft image of the country throughout the world. But this time we are doing our best to prepare a strong squad that could make a forceful participation in the global event,” said Trunkwala in an interview with TNS. Trunkwala is the President of World Group.

The second edition of the mini-football Socca World Cup, organised by International Socca Federation (ISF), will be held in Crete, Greece from October 13 to 20. The inaugural edition of the Socca World Cup was held in Lisbon, Portugal last year where Pakistan claimed ‘Fair Play’ award. However, Pakistan is yet to win a match in the ISF marquee event.

Pakistan has been placed in Group ‘H’ along with Slovenia, Germany, Hungary and Romania. Pakistan will play its first match on October 14 against Slovenia. The Pakistan footballers will then take on Romania on October 15. The next day, Pakistan will clash with a strong Germany team, which won the inaugural edition of the Socca World Cup last year. In its last group match, Pakistan will take on Hungary on October 17. The semifinals, third place play-off and the summit clash will be played on October 20. The closing ceremony will also be held on the same day.

“We held tournaments in almost 80 cities of the country. Tournament winners featured in city championships, city champions fought in regional championship and finally regional champions featured in the National Championship, which was won by Lahore team. Almost 800 teams were involved in the LLP national circuit,” Trunkwala said.

LLP later also organised trials in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Quetta under the supervision of Englishman Kevin Reeves, a UEFA licensed coach. Reeves has praised talented Pakistani players and have shown hope that the team would perform well.

“We have brought a foreign coach with a belief that he would enable our players to put a forceful show especially against European sides. We have tried to do everything to prepare a strong side.

“Meanwhile, the purpose of the trials was to give one more chance to players, who couldn’t make it to the LLP national circuit due to different reasons. Sometimes it is difficult to be a part of a team for an individual,” Trunkwala said.

LLP has also reached out to Pakistan’s foreign based players to strengthen the team. Pakistani players Yousuf Butt and Hasan Bashir, who are based in Denmark, have also been included in the squad. LLP has recently announced a 17-member squad.

“Like I said, we don’t want to leave any stone unturned therefore we have included these players in the squad. We are hopeful that our team will put a better show this time around,” said Trunkwala, who is also Vice President of ISF, and is one of the founding members of the organisation.

LLP has played important role in bringing international sports to Pakistan, which saw halt in sports activities following a terrorist attack on Sri Lanka team in 2009. LLP brought several international footballers including Brazilian star Ronaldinho and Welshman Ryan Giggs in 2017. It was arguably the biggest sports event in nine years if one considers the international stature of the players that featured in the two matches in Lahore and Karachi.

“With the help of Allah Almighty, we will hopefully raise the bar with every passing year. First year, we brought international footballers to show the world that Pakistan is a football loving nation. Then we took Pakistan to the world – by taking the team to the first edition of Socca World Cup. Now we have expanded considerably throughout the country and again we are going to feature in the World Cup. And Insha Allah, our team will put a strong show this year,” he signed off.

Published in The News on Sunday, 13 October 2019