Floods sweep away footballers’ dreams [Express Tribune]

Floods sweep away footballers’ dreams [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: “The devastation is beyond words and like everyone else, labourers, farmers, office-going people, footballers too are affected badly. Football grounds are all gone at least in Sindh and Balochistan,” former FIFA referee and physical instructor Iqbal Junior explains as he came back from interior Sindh, where he was working for grassroots at the stadium.

Although the devastation has taken more than 900 lives, Iqbal feels that there is more than the government can estimate at the moment, as he saw people coming out of the roads in Sindh as he travelled through Tando Adam, Sanghar, Jhuddo, Mirpurkhas. He informed that in Jacobabad too, where there is the partially constructed FIFA goal project it is all inundated in flood water. Meanwhile in Lasbela District, football official Khuda Buksh said that it has been 40 days of agony and misery for the people, including footballers.

“We had been working in Shaheen Football Academy Tando Bago in Badin, which is also very badly affected. There are so many young footballers there who have been training constantly and have been very eager to play, but now we don’t know the entire ground is water logged and their houses are damaged too,” Iqbal told The Express Tribune, as the Chief Operating Officer of the project in Tando Bago.

“There are many footballers who are affected by the floods, their houses are gone, everything is gone,” Buksh told The Express Tribune. “The grounds are all under water. They are all damaged because of the floods and then the basic amenities are not there anymore. People are without a roof on their heads and in this, of course the footballers and other sportspersons are affected as well. There has been lot of damage in these last 40 days. It is beyond comprehension.”

Buksh added that within Lasbela district there are more than 50 football clubs, while there is a lot more devastation in Hub and in Khuzdar too.

“What is required right now is tents and rations because that is the utmost important thing,” said Buksh. “Many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) are working in the area but that is of course not enough. My own brother has made the third round now to the affected areas to distribute goods because there is really a lot of damage and loss,” said Buksh.

“We fear there will be more floods as there is a forecast for more tough weather after a week.”

Similarly, Muhammad Ali in Lasbela, who runs his own club Jeo Jam Kamal FC, said that the football grounds are gone and his players, as he also coaches his club team, are struggling.

On the other hand, Hussain Ali in Uthal, another football organiser said that although the flood water has swept away, the damage to houses and football grounds along with other places of shelter is irrevocable.

The help from government is also not sufficient, but Hussain’s request is simple, “Help each other, help all of us here because there is really no other way to get through his.”

Road to rehabilitation will be tough

Iqbal feels that the recovery from the devastation in interior Sindh will be hard.

“I came back to Karachi today, and what we saw was just heart-breaking. In the past flood relief work would also take football grounds where people can be settled with tents and other things, but his time around with the worst floods in the last 36 year all the grounds are gone too.

“If the government tries to pull the water out it may take two to three months for it all to get back to normal, but the grounds are gone for a very long period because of the water logging and salinity in the Earth,” said Iqbal.

“Our local organiser Ghulamullah, who was helping us get the football goods for the grass-roots development had the worst time as the fields near his ground too are all gone. So there is a problem with food supply that they will be facing now and in the future, because all the crops are gone.

“We have been working in Tando Adam, Sanghar through Naukot too, whereas in Hyderabad there was meant to be a referees’ meeting that had to be called off today because there are areas including Lateefabad that have been flooded.”

Iqbal played his football for Baloch Muhammadan FC Malir and later went on to be registered as the FIFA referee and then took courses in physical fitness from Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand besides participating in several events abroad.

Iqbal also appealed for help as he fears that the loss and damage of lives and property is more than the projections shown by the government, while rehabilitation of the affected will take a long time.

Published in The Express Tribune, 29 August 2022