Shining against all odds [TNS]

Shining against all odds [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

Football lovers know a lot about Lyari’s JAFA Soccer Academy which has become an institution in itself. Irrespective of the fact that it has been facing big issues since Kakri Ground was restructured and its size reduced, the academy is delivering top services free of cost which is a rare example in this world of materialism.

Former international midfielder Javed Arab has been handling the academy for the last 25 years. There are ten coaches with him, including his brother Nasir Arab, who has also played football in Oman. They train the enrolled players, both boys and girls, of various age-groups with top dedication and commitment.

Due to the less space available now on the Kakri Ground, boys and girls are trained for three days each in a week. Sunday has been reserved for matches and tournaments.

Registered with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) way back in 2006, the academy has produced around 35 male and nine female international players which is a huge achievement.

Javed has solid credentials. He played for Habib Bank for 25 years and also remained its captain. He also played for National Bank, PIA and Pakistan Automobile Corporation (PACO). For Pakistan, he played from 1985 to 1994.

Ask Javed and he will tell you in detail about his academy and his club JAFA FC which have been playing a leading role in the development of football in the country.

JAFA Soccer Academy girls

“We have 300 plus footballers and of them 35 men and nine girls are international,” Javed told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS) in a detailed chat.

“Saima, Fatima Naz, Huda Naz, Fatima Naz, Shifa, Ayesha, Sanober and Aqsa Mohammad Dawood are international players we have produced,” Javed said.

Aqsa also represented Pakistan in the AFC Aurora e-Goal as youth social ambassador.

“Ali Khan Niazi, Pakistan’s current player, is on top of the list among the players we have produced. Yasir, Nabeel, Naeem, Siraj, Badar and Sohail are also international players,” Javed said.

“It’s difficult to run an academy but I have passion for the game. When I was playing for Pakistan and the department I used to train kids. Coaches would object why I was coaching kids as I was still playing but nothing deviated my attention from that. I kept on pursuing my passion,” Javed said.

“Actually, I had not been taught by anyone the way a player deserves when I was playing and this hurt me a lot. I thought I would teach kids real football and that is what I am doing,” Javed said.

“And I am still teaching kids free of cost. This is the sole academy in Pakistan where kids are taught football free of cost,” he said.

“We have kids from all districts of Karachi. We have ten coaches who deliver their services in the academy. I also utilize the services of our senior players as coaches, who are internationals and have become professional” Javed said.

“Two years back Kakri ground was renovated and restructured which has reduced its size. There were some people from DMC and DC who came and were impressed by my work. They told me to establish rooms on the site for the kids. DMC Municipal Commissioner also gifted a few computers and I also started teaching kids free of cost,” he recalled.

“Now the ground has become too small and we are facing a tough time. Because of this issue we train kids on alternate days from 2pm to 7pm,” he explained.

“Under-10, Under-12, Under-14, Under-16 and above players are being trained here. We also have a club and those players who reach 16 years of age play for the club in various major events of Pakistan. The idea behind drafting seniors into a club after they reach 16 was that when our kids reached the age of 16 different clubs used to pick and utilise them wrongly. Now the boys that we groom in the academy go into the club when they are 16. They are now satisfied with their growth,” Javed said.

JAFA Soccer Academy boys

“Years ago I submitted applications with various ministers to build our ground but unfortunately nothing solid happened. I am talking about those days when there were security concerns in Lyari due to gang war and you know I had girls playing in the academy. At that time Kakri ground was the centre of illegal activities,” he recalled.

“Now World Bank and the Sindh government have rebuilt the ground and as a result its size has reduced drastically, making it difficult for us to manage full-fledged training in the entire week for all enrolled players,” he said.

“But still we are managing,” Javed was quick to add.

“In the past when we had rooms at our disposal. We would also teach the kids. They used to attend assembly and classes before they would move for training. The World Bank has seen our activities and has appreciated us,” he said.

“If you see the Kakri ground structure plan, you will find the details about JAFA Soccer Academy. The design was aimed to reduce the ground size and a multipurpose building was to be established in its place. It has been mentioned in the ground plan that one room will be utilised for JAFA classroom and the other for JAFA office but we have not yet been provided with these rooms. I don’t know what is the issue behind it,” Javed said.

He said that the PFF Normalisation Committee last year gifted them 20 footballs and some equipment. He said that a doctor and his entire team is also assisting the academy.

Published in The News, 19 May 2024