Pakistani inter-faith football documentary wins award at the Tagore International Film Festival

Pakistani inter-faith football documentary wins award at the Tagore International Film Festival

Pakistani documentary “Barefoot with Godfather of Soccer-Unwanted but Undaunted” awarded at the Tagore International Film Festival, held on 29th of December, 2021 in Bolpur, West Bengal, India. Tagore International Film Festival, TIFF is named after Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Khalid Hasan Khan has produced and directed the 35 minutes long soccer documentary. The sports documentary revolves around the lives of two former footballers and current soccer coaches, one from the south, while other from the north of Pakistan.

From Sindh, Ahmed Jan, former FIFA referee and the incharge of Karachi Municipal Corporation football stadium, while Saifullah Khan belongs to Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, were shown inspiring young footballers, within their meager resources. The documentary director Khalid Hasan Khan said, “This is more of an interfaith dialogue than a soccer documentary, where the lives of footballers of both genders from the Hindu, Christian and Zoroastrian minority communities were captured with other underprivileged sections of the Pakistani society.” In this docu, Joyce Christina, a Christian footballer from the minority women’s football team, shared her story of on and off field discrimination.

While, Jamshed, a footballer from the Zoroastrian community, who plays for the Karachi Parsi Institute, gripes about the dearth of football fields as he practises soccer on a volleyball court. Amarsee Magji Paria, a priest of Harijan Manohar Temple and a former footballer, from Narain Pur, aka The Little Bombay of Karachi; recollects a story of inter-faith harmony: he recalls, “in the 1950s, a Pakistani Hussain Killer was the captain of the Mohan Bagan Football Club in Kolkata with all ten Hindu teammates. The then, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru used to attend the football matches of Hussain Killer in the stadium.” Pakistan’s first female football reporter Shazia Hassan, who took over the responsibility of football reporting, after a great deal of toil, also recounted her story, to get the football beat from the editor of an English daily. Alam Zeb Safi, a veteran sport journalist elaborated the tale of the lost cause of Goal Project for Sindh from FIFA, in this documentary film.

Ahmed Jan chronicled the incident when two target killers, in an attempt to seize the KMC ground, fired half a dozen shots at him, during an assassination attempt on his life, but he miraculously survived to serve the sport of football. The film includes interviews of young players from Lyari; known as Mini Brazil and the heart of Karachi’s soccer; where teenage football players find it hard to play the game at Kakri ground, thanks to an illegal parking, inside the ground. Saifullah Khan, a coach from Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told how he mentored a local young rickshaw driver, in fulfilling his dream of becoming a soccer goalkeeper, when his friend from Sialkot donated a football kit, at his request. He said people from the North Waziristan tribal region, bought tickets to watch a locally organized football tournament in Miranshah. The gun-wielding spectators agreed to attend the matches without firearms, when the announcement was made that “if armed spectators tried to enter the stadium, the tournament would be stopped”. Khalid Hasan Khan said, “the most touching moments of the documentary were filmed inside a Hindu temple in Karachi, where Ahmed Jan and Amarsee Magji Paria were present”. Ahmed Jan, reminisced, “there are two small houses inside the KMC Stadium, where a Hindu family lives with a Muslim next-door neighbor. Ahmed Jan once rebuked the head of a Muslim family, when the Hindu neighbor complained to him. Upholding his comment, Amarsee Magji Paria endorsed that “sport makes man human.” He added that the literal meaning of religion is humanity.”

According to the film director, “football is not just a sport but it is a gel that bridges the gap between people of different faiths and social classes along with providing a healthy entertainment to the new generation by eliminating intolerance and class difference from the society.” It is about time that Barefoot got an international recognition, as FIFA has suspended the PFF, Pakistan Football Federation, on April 7, 2021 due to the intervention of a third party. Such interference is a serious violation of FIFA rules. He said “a documentary about the dedication and passion of Pakistani footballers highlighting the dilemma of Pakistan football, at an international level, at such a moment, might turn out to be a crucial milestone to underscore the case of Pakistani soccer-lovers before the global football community. The documentary ‘Barefoot with Godfather of Soccer-Unwanted but Undaunted’ has also recently been officially selected by the Kings Cross Film Awards, London, UK.