Bullets, drugs and football

Ammar Haider June 12, 2010
Lyari is considered one of the most dangerous places in Karachi due to ubiquitous gang activity and a thriving narcotics industry in the area. Certain parts of the town are literally controlled by gangs and municipal authorities have no power. This is the common statement you will hear from people of Karachi. But despite all those gang wars, bloodshed and police operations, love and passion for football or soccer is not dead in this part of Karachi.

A few days back, a newly started gang war took dozens of lives but that doesn’t stop any Lyariite from cheering for their favorite team in the FIFA World Cup. And there is no prize in guessing who their favorite team is. Often called ‘Mini Brazil’, Lyari was once the home town of all the national team members that once defeated Turkey and Iran in the1966 World Cup qualifying round.

The slums of Lyari have produced football stars such as Mohammad Omar, Turab Ali, Ali Nawaz Baloch and how can one not mention Abdul Ghafoor, once known as the “Pele of Pakistan”.

This monthly event gives Lyari residents a reason to put aside their sorrows and enjoy the game their forefathers and they themselves have been playing in the narrow streets of Lyari. You will see Brazilian flags hanging from the balconies, local hotels hosting special screenings and the entire community gathering at one place with only one thing on their minds: football.

But it was never the choice of the football-loving Lyari youth to become hardcore criminals or drug dealers. Lack of recreational activities, lack of jobs, lack of education and lack of good governance and dirty politics has made Lyari, one of the most dangerous areas of the city.

Mohammad Iqbal was a common man and used to play as a defender but now he is not only famous for stopping opponents from scoring goals, but also for his killing skills which have given the title “Babu Dakait”.

With over 116 registered clubs, Lyari is a big football industry and is undoubtedly true to its name ‘Mini Brazil’. But Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has badly neglected this industry which produced legends like Hussain ‘Killer’, Ismail ‘Grenade’, Ghafoor Majna, Ustad Sattar Jabal, Taj Mohammad, Yar Mohammad, Qadir Bukhsh ‘Putla’, and several others. And this is a criminal negligence by PFF.

Let’s hope one day we see the people of Lyari representing the Pakistan National team playing the World Cup finals.
Ammar Haider Ammar Haider works in the IT industry and has an interest in social issues related to the common Pakistani. He is passionate about football development in Pakistan. He tweets @ammar_haider. He blogs at White Sh@dow and Football de Pakistan.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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