by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Following a few rusty years due to inactive football in Pakistan, the nation’s highly talented players now have got a golden opportunity to hone their skills at the Irish club St Patrick’s Athletic FC.
A three-year deal has been brokered between the Global Soccer Ventures (GSV) and Ireland’s St Patrick’s Athletic FC. Under the deal the Irish club will train 20 Pakistani players in its academy and effort will be made to award professional contracts to a couple of super talent among the lot.
In order to start working on the project, UEFA pro-licensed coaching panel, comprising Karel Fraeye (Belgium), Sandro Gianisella (Italy) and Dennis Ricardo Baino (Belgium), is due to arrive in Islamabad on January 14 to begin trials on January 17.
The trials will be held in Islamabad, Muzaffarabad, Peshawar, Lahore, Multan, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Quetta, Sukkur and Karachi.
Fraeye also revealed in a virtual news conference on Thursday that local coaches would also be involved during trials.
A GSV source told ‘The News’ after the news conference that after shortlisting players from various cities the final trials will be held in Karachi. This would be a three-week process.
According to sources, former English star Michael Owen would also witness some part of the trials, especially the finals, as he is expected to arrive in the last week of January.
Trials process will be held from January 17 to February 5.
A GSV source said then it would be decided by the St Patrick’s Athletic FC when the 20-member lot of Pakistan would visit Dublin to undergo training in the club’s academies.
The source said that players of 18 years and above will be solely scanned by the foreign coaching panel for picking in the 20-member lot which will travel to Dublin for training.
“Due to foreign travel and legal purposes focus will be on 18 year old and plus players. Yes any player can attend the trials as we can also pick players for our Pakistan Football League (PFL),” the source said.
The GSV, which also has joined hands with Kamyab Jawan Programme, have already announced that the franchise-based league will be held some time this year.
The PFL brand ambassador and former England striker Michael Owen was very excited about the project.
“It’s a great initiative and I am delighted to be part of it,” Owen told the news conference.
“It’s a great opportunity for Pakistani players who will be able to get a solid platform to nurture through and find their way into major stages of the game and in professional circuit,” Owen said.
However he agreed that players at a much younger age have ample time at their disposal to develop their natural skills.
Mike Farnan, the GSV Chief Operating Officer (COO), also sees the venture highly exciting for Pakistan footballers to develop.
“I am very excited with the GSV. Karyle Fraeye is the world’s leading coach and he will be hunting the talent in Pakistan and bring that to St Patrick’s Athletic FC where it will get nurtured for bigger stages. We have Michael Owen, a great football icon, and I think it’s an exciting journey to start and one day we will see Pakistani players play for this club,” said Farnan, also a former Man United MD.
“We have a big team led by Zabe Khan and it’s a big initiative. Pakistan is a sports-mad country and its players will find a great opportunity to train in Dublin with St Paterick’s Athletic FC which have around 36 under-age internationals,” Farnan said.
Karyle Fraeye advised the players who desire to feature in trials to get registered for that. The trials process will be as per UEFA metrics.
GSV CEO Zabe Khan said that they are set to provide an international platform to the Pakistani young players and those who work hard and meet the standards of European football will get the chance to play professional football.
“We are also talking to English Premier League clubs and St Patrick’s Athletic FC have loaned out so many players to English Premier League clubs,” said Zabe.
Kamyab Jawan have also joined hands with GSV in the whole project and its representative Aneela Khwaja said “it’s a new venture”.
“It should have been started centuries ago. We are very excited that GSV is working with St Patrick’s Athletic FC,” she said.
Ambassador of Pakistan in Ireland Shuja Alam pledged that Pakistani players will be hosted properly. “It will be great to host Pakistan talent in Ireland. A few days ago, we held a meeting with the Athletic FC and discussed various matters of the project. We will be facilitating the Pakistani talent in visas and traveling matters. We will be engaged with both the Irish club and the Pakistani players,” Shuja said.
Yasir Mahmood, GSV chairman, said that it’s an exciting time for Pakistani footballers. “It’s so exciting. Everybody wants to be part of it. We will create a whole ecosystem and we will definitely achieve the target,” Yasir said.
“When we first went for the project, even my wife told me that I was crazy. It seemed to be a small project but now it has gone beyond limits and will massively back Pakistan football,” Yasir said.