Ahmed Jan, a football official, says it is inevitable for players from Lyari to interact with gang members in the neighbourhood. “These gangsters ask the children to do small chores like get cigarettes or drinks for them and they pay them. A boy cannot say no to them, because they’ll kill him. They will pay the boy Rs10,000 to do these small errands and after a while, they will ask him to become an informant and pay him Rs15,000.”
Jan adds, “It’s not like these boys are criminals themselves and many have left Lyari because they were perceived as criminals. But not everyone as the means to leave their homes for a better place.” He insists that Shahzaib “was clean” and says, “Just because these children are exposed to a few criminals does not make them gangsters too.”
Jan says the PFF and other organisations do not pay these young boys to play for them and thus many players earn some money from gang members. “Baba Ladla and Uzair Baloch would hold tournaments in Lyari during Ramadan and Baba Ladla would also give money or motorbikes to his favourite players. At least these gangsters would encourage sports.”
In comparison, Jan feels the PFF and government bodies do not create opportunities for younger boxers or footballers in order to groom them. “These players just want to play, they want to serve the country with their skills,” he points out.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2014.