by Salman Ashraf
QUETTA: Six local footballers were abducted from the Jani Bair area of the Dera Bugti district in Balochistan on Saturday, according to local district administration.
Local law enforcement agencies have begun search for the missing athletes with blockades in place to cordon off the area.
“The players were residents of Dera Bugti and Sui. They were going to Sibi to take part in the qualifying round of the All Pakistan Chief Minister Gold Cup football tournament,” Dera Bugti’s deputy commissioner confirmed.
Meanwhile, Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said that the athletes were kidnapped by terrorists.
“An operation is being planned to recover the players. Teams of Frontier Corps, deputy commissioner, commissioner and Levies Force were working to trace the suspects,” said Bugti.
Overall, cricket might be the most popular sport in Pakistan but the same can’t be said for its largest province, Balochistan, since football here is a tool that promotes social cohesion among communities and helps them escape the harsh realities of life.
However, despite the ever-growing interest in football in Balochistan, only a few are lucky enough to pursue the game professionally due to lack of a proper system and employment opportunities.
The departmental structure in Pakistan usually shows little interest in the development of players, promotion of the sport and working at the grassroots level since it is already funded by the government. This add to misery of places like Balochistan which is in dire need of investment on sports and especially football.
Mismanagement and rift between players and officials has always been an Achilles heel for Pakistan football over the past few years and the same is the case with Balochistan.
With Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) suffering from administrative infighting and bans by FIFA in the recent past, little or no attention was given to issues in Balochistan.