KARACHI: It could be an opportunity of a lifetime. A football club in England is offering a two-year scholarship for two Pakistani kids that would provide them a chance to become world class professional footballers.
Zavier Austin, Vice Chairman of Swindon Town Football Club, told ‘The News’ here on Monday that his club has planned to train local coaches and to take two under-15 players to England for formal training for a two-year period at SN1.
“Pakistan is a country with rich sporting history. They have produced some great cricketers, hockey and squash players. I see no reason why Pakistan cannot produce world class football players,” said Zavier, who has convinced his Club’s owners to fund the project on the insistence of a close friend from Pakistan.
“My Pakistani friend convinced me that the local youth here has great potential. I’ve seen some really talented youngsters here on my current visit to Karachi and we will now soon begin this project,” he said.
Swindon Town FC has already signed an MoU with Karachi Football Club. The entire enterprise has the backing of Commissioner Karachi.
“We are very excited about this project,” Iqbal Memon, Commissioner Karachi, told ‘The News’. “I mean our coaches will get best possible training from foreign experts. Then perhaps more importantly our young boys will go to England and train there for two years. If they are good enough, they will have this opportunity of playing professional football in England,” he said.
According to the plan, a top coach from Swindon Town FC will come to Pakistan next month. He will single out two coaches, who will then go to England to receive training. Then, the club will select two of the best under-15 players, who will be offered a two-year scholarship. They will train and play in Swindon.
“What we are looking for (among the juniors) is not just talent, physique or skills. We are looking for that mindset that makes world class players. We will be looking for boys who are willing to be thrown in the deep end. We are looking for boys who are ready to accept any challenge,” said Austin.
Austin wants coaches and players to be well-versed in English so that there is no language barrier. However, when told that most of the best young footballers here might not speak English he said that the Club will find a way to accommodate them. “It will be criminal to overlook the best kids just because they don’t speak English,” he conceded. “So maybe if the need arises we will pay for them to learn English because they will need to understand the language if they want to get the best out of their training in England.”
Asked whether he sees any footballing potential in Pakistan, Austin said: “Of course in a country of more than 200 million you have to have potential. It’s just a question of creating opportunities. If Pakistan’s young players get full-fledged training and exposure in England then I can say that in ten years, there will be Pakistani players playing in the English Premier League.
“This might sound a bit far-fetched today. But what would you have done had someone told you ten years ago that in the future the world’s best footballer will be a Muslim from Egypt. Today, we have Mohammad Salah who is currently the biggest star in international football.”