KARACHI: Despite losing the quarter-finals of the 2014 Norway Cup, Pakistan’s Street Child World Cup squad impressed Norwegian fans and will head out to France this week for a friendly match with a local club.
The players were applauded by the Norwegian-Pakistani community for proving their talent in the tournament as they reached the last-eight round among top local clubs in Europe.
“A defeat was tough to take, but they have invited us to come back next year,” team manager Itfan Maqbool told The Express Tribune. “People here are amazed to know that Pakistan has a football team of this calibre that can play against European counterparts. We are proud because at least we gave these clubs a tough competition.
“We lost the quarter-final because we had to play two matches in a day. It could’ve been different if our match was scheduled the next day. I’m just glad that our children made a mark.”
Meanwhile, Raja Nasir Hussain – one of the event organisers and hosts at the Norway Cup – said that it was a treat to watch Pakistani players perform.
“There were around 50,000 Norwegian-Pakistanis here,” said Hussain. “These 16 youngsters are not just players; they are our heroes.
“No one in Europe could even imagine that a Pakistani team can come and play to win against the local clubs. The players here have a better build, they are stronger, and of course our Pakistani team was not physically at par. But they won hearts through their game.
“They played beautifully; it was worth watching them compete. Before this, people in Norway thought that Pakistan only has cricket.”
‘No help from government’s side’
Hussain pointed out that the team participated in Norway Cup without any help from the government.
“It’s shameful for the Pakistan government and football authorities to overlook these players,” said Hussain. “They didn’t even provide a physio or a doctor.
“Other clubs in Europe had all the facilities but the Pakistani players arrived without an official medical team designated by the concerned authorities.”
Hussain added that a Norwegian-Pakistani minister Mudassir Kapoor invited the team to spend time with him at the Norwegian Parliament.
Meanwhile, a local Norway club has invited the team to play a friendly match on Saturday, according to Azad Foundation official Naveed Hasan Khan. The team will then face-off with a local club in Paris on August 7.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2014.
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