News Analysis |
On the 16th of September, JS Bank wrapped up the ‘Aik Awam’ Unity Football Cup, setting a milestone for the promotion of local football in Pakistan. JS Bank ranks amongst Pakistan’s fastest growing financial institutions with active social initiatives and governance goals.
The annual tournament commenced its maiden event on 6th September, or Defense Day received encouraging responses from local football fans and players alike. It stands out among other grassroots initiatives springing across Pakistan’s largest urban landscape.
“Football is a cheap sport and also a common sport in Karachi so we held this tournament hoping that more sponsors take notice of it.”
In Karachi, the event attempted to encourage national unity by bridging diverse communities through the shared platform of sports. The tournament offered a competitive platform for budding footballers within Pakistan. Featuring 32 football clubs from across Karachi, the domestically supervised event went on for 11 days with the final taking place in jam-packed Gizri Stadium on Sunday 16th September 2018.
Football may not be Pakistan’s national sport, but neither is cricket, yet the latter enjoys far more financial advantages and media coverage than even hockey. It was thus refreshing to see crowds thronging the neglected ground despite the Pakistan Cricket Team playing their Asia Cup match on the same evening.
While the sense of social fervor and unity that follows the football spirit spelled success for eager fans, the incentives gained by players in this event was unheard of. “I have never seen a tournament where they treated us like this,” says Zahid Ali Khan, captain of National Fighters FC. Khan’s team delighted football fans by scoring a last-minute penalty goal against their home ground opponents, Gizri Star to win the closing match.
Khan was awed at the health insurance he received stating it was a first in his 20 years career despite playing at the national level for Pak Army from 2004 till 2009. Khan’s team is made up mostly of players from Karachi’s ethnic Hazara community. Established in 1985, like various other football teams in Pakistan, they lack the funding and facilities needed for professional football.
Local football lays its hopes in the hands of socially conscious institutions such as JS Bank who also won an award for the Best Environmental and Social Governance Bank at the Pakistan Banking Awards last year.
While Karachi may be a hotbed for football, Pakistan itself has no lack of talent in the sport. Khan accredited JS bank’s event not only for taking footballers seriously but also by providing healthcare initiatives to those who have dedicated their lives to the sport. Khan added that national facilities and institutions should be highlighting football events that take place throughout the year.
JS Bank’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Zaid Haroon was the Chief guest at the prize distribution ceremony. Speaking at the occasion, Zaid Haroon commended inclusive initiatives such as sports as a unifying factor essential for social progress. Football allows social subgroups to interact with one another creating room for business and prosperity.
Interestingly enough, the Aik Awam Movement was headed by the young Jibran Nasir, who gained notoriety as the “people’s choice” in the past elections, where he contested independently. Sports was part of his manifesto and although he couldn’t manage to secure a foothold in politics, his efforts towards social emancipation are certainly taking root.
“It was a part of the election campaign. I said that I’ll work on the sports grounds and youth engagement,” said Nasir while speaking to media sources. “Football is a cheap sport and also a common sport in Karachi so we held this tournament hoping that more sponsors take notice of it.”
Nasir’s Aik Awam Movement also promised future Under-15 tournaments for boys and girls as soon as November.
Nasir believes that the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) could do more than just organizing annual national leagues with little concern to incentivizing players and the sport. “They play at clubs and at departments but they deserve better.” According to Nasir the Aik Awam Cup took a month to organize and only 10 days to get the teams and sponsors on board.
It was the first football tournament organized by the Movement at a meager budget of Rs. 2 million, with proceeds even going to the 2nd 3rd and 4th runner-up teams. Nasir also added that he intended to showcase the willingness of local footballers in cooperating under less than optimal conditions by scheduling the final at the grassless Gizri Ground. Given the right environment and infrastructure Nasir believes that football can thrive in Pakistan.
Until that day, local football lays its hopes in the hands of socially conscious institutions such as JS Bank who also won an award for the Best Environmental and Social Governance Bank at the Pakistan Banking Awards last year. Nasir’s Aik Awam Movement also promised future Under-15 tournaments for boys and girls as soon as November.