It is hard to imagine Pakistan doing great in football at any level. The international sport is among the most popular team sports in the country, but the domestic craze for football is usually visible in front of TV screens than on the pitch.
But the Pakistani street children team proved otherwise, by finishing in third place at the Street Child World Cup held in Brazil last month.
Football is akin to a religion in Latin America, and it is no surprise that Brazilians appreciate good football when they see it.
At a ceremony at the Brazilian embassy in Islamabad on Monday, Ambassador Alfredo Leoni honoured the Pakistani street child football team with praise and awards.
The team — Sameer Ahmed, Abdul Raziq, Aurangzeb Baba, Salman Hussain, Owais Ali, Faizan Fayyaz, Muhammad Shoaib, Mehr Ali and Rajab Ali, was made up of children from Karachi, except Fayyaz, who is from Quetta.
The nine teammates and their coach, Abdul Rashid, were joined at the ceremony by Azad Foundation Chairman Naveed Hasan Khan, who helped scout the young footballers, Muslim Hands Director Amjad Rasool, and Chief Executive Officer of the Street Child World Cup John Wroe.
In his welcome address, Ambassador Leoni said sports were important tools for social organisations and institutions to promote education and to provide support to the street children. He praised the young Pakistani footballers for their achievement in Brazil.
“Their accomplishment will be an inspiration for all children of Pakistan,” he said.
Children from three institutes in Islamabad and Rawalpindi that support and educate street children also participated in a football match held as part of the ceremony, according to the Brazilian embassy. These institutions were the Mashal Model School in Nurpur, Rah-e-Amal in Rawalpindi and LettuceBee Kids in F-11.
The Brazilian ambassador also gave shields to the team, the coach, the Azad Foundation chairman and the Muslim Hands director as well as prizes for the winners of the football goal competition.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2014.
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