They have brought unexpected pride for the country and received accolades from the Pakistani public and public figures alike for their performance at the world stage. Even the President of Pakistan showered the Pakistani street children football team with well-deserved praise.
But for the Pakistani street children, who won third place in the Street Child World Cup in Brazil in April, more admiration is in the pipeline.
The team will be honoured at a ceremony in Islamabad on Monday by the envoy of the Latin American country where the children displayed their football skills.
The Embassy of Brazil has planned a ceremony at the embassy to celebrate the performance of the team. Ambassador of Brazil to Pakistan, Alfredo Leoni, will praise the performance of the footballers with shields and other gifts in their honour at the ceremony, according to the Brazilian embassy.
Apart from the nine-member team, children from one Rawalpindi and two Islamabad organisations — Rah-e-Amal, and Lettuce Bee Kids and Mashal Model School — will participate in the event, according to the embassy. The organisations support the education and development of street children in the twin cities.
The Street Child World Cup is held ahead of the FIFA World Cup. The Pakistan team topped its preliminary round group, won the quarter-final on penalties against Philippines but lost to Burundi in the semis. The Pakistanis then went on to beat the United States on penalties to win third place in the tournament.
The team comprises Sameer Ahmed, Abdul Raziq, Aurangzeb Baba, Salman Hussain, Owais Ali, Faizan Fayyaz, Muhammad Shoaib, Mehr Ali and Rajab Ali. Fayyaz is from Quetta while the remaining eight young footballers are from Karachi. NGO Azad Foundation helped scout the street children footballers.
The team received a heroes’ welcome at the Karachi airport on its return to Pakistan from Brazil. President Mamnoon Hussain also distributed Rs100,000 cash prizes among the team at a ceremony in Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2014.
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Proud of my young fellow Greem Shirts! Spectacular work! Pakistan must invest more in it's young and growing football talent!