‘Gwadar’s identity is football, not cricket’ [Express Tribune]

‘Gwadar’s identity is football, not cricket’ [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: “Cricket was nowhere. Gwadar’s sport is football, and I can only say that the government needs to invest more in football than cricket, at least in Gwadar,” rues a football official affiliated with the Gwadar Port Trust team that missed the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) National Challenge Cup in December because of the lack of funds.

His reaction is the same as many others’ may be in Gwadar who see football as their primary sport and not cricket, corroborating the official’s reaction to the newly opened cricket stadium in Gwadar that saw extensive coverage last week.

Allah Bux of Baloch Football Club Gwadar adds that there is no opportunity for footballers to grow in Pakistan and especially in Gwadar despite the talent and drive of the players, although having a cricket stadium is not in itself a bad thing.

“Cricket is also a sport, so if we get cricketers from Gwadar that is a good thing, but what we really need is the same treatment, if not better, for football,” said the 35-year-old midfielder who plays for the club and also organises matches.

He believes that football facilities are necessary for the players but in the coastal area like Gwadar the players even go without basic facilities just to play the sport anyway. Meanwhile, even with great talent the money is never in the players’ fate due to the woeful systems in place.

“Football is our primary support, there is no question about it,” Bux told The Express Tribune. “There is this cricket stadium. It is good but we have these two football stadiums as well. One is grassless, where most of the matches take place while another one is the Mir Ghaus Bux Bizenjo Stadium in Gwadar. We are hoping for that one to get ready in the next six to seven months, but we don’t have anything more than that. Our players, even in departmental teams don’t get more than Rs7,000 to 8,000 in this day and age, so where should our youth go? They are very talented players, but there are no opportunities or money for them and that shows how football is a considered a second-class sport in Pakistan.”

Bux added that for now there are 22 local clubs in Gwadar that have football teams and the players come from Khuzdar, Panjgoor and Turbat as well, while the local players from Gwadar alone are fishermen.

“They have made the cricket stadium, it is nice, it is good, but all we want is to do the same for football, and footballers,” said Bux.

On the other hand the Gwadar Port Authority official believes that the facilities are one side of the problem and the other is the lack of funds. He is afraid that his team may not be able to play at any tournaments this year despite team’s extraordinary performance at the PFF Division B league, where they booked their place in the Pakistan Premier Football League, in spite of all the limitations and lack of basic facilities.

“We need funds. As far as we know we need a good amount like Rs400,000 to 500,000 to carry on competing at the national level. We need that much at least. Sure everyone praised us from everywhere in the country who knew about football, but we are not in the position to play like this. As far as that cricket stadium is concerned, I’m happy, but there is a football stadium too in Gwadar, at a better location as well. Football needs love like Pakistan loves its cricket,” said the official.

He further added that to overlook football for cricket in Gwadar is unwise as the locals have been playing football even before Gwadar became a part of Pakistan from Oman.

“Cricket is new for Gwadar. We have played football for more than a century, even when we were a part of Oman. A lot of our players are also playing in Muscat in fact. Historically, football has been a part of Gwadar’s history, so football should not be overlooked,” said the official fearing and hoping for the footballers’ future in a cricket-crazy country.

Published in The Express Tribune, 21 February 2021