From One Football Tragedy to Another

The football community in Pakistan joined the rest of the world recently in paying tribute to one of the game’s greatest ever players, the Argentinean star of yesteryear, Diego Armando Maradona. More simply known as Maradona, the 60-year-old died after suffering a cardiac arrest, just two weeks after being admitted into hospital for operation on a brain clot.

Maradona’s “Hand of God” Goal

He will be remembered by many for his “Hand of God” goal, scored against England in the 1986 FIFA World Cup. The audacity with which the Argentinian celebrated the infamous goal immediately after, amid furious complaints from the England players, is quite amazing.

But later on in the same match, Maradona went on to score what many people rate as the goal of the century. It showed the man’s explosive pace, his ability to sprint at breakneck speed with the ball seemingly attached to his boots, his strength to ward off and ride tackles, and his sheer determination to stamp his influence on the world of football. Even the most phlegmatic English supporter could not deny the sheer brilliance and quality of the goal.

A Virtual Coach to Footballers worldwide

Maradona never made it onto Sportingbet’s Deadliest Striker in Europe table. He played in an earlier era. But the name at the top of the table was a fellow Argentinian, Lionel Messi, himself a huge fan of Maradona, of whom he said was the greatest footballer of all time.

In Pakistan, Maradona was referred to by his peers as the “virtual coach.” It is because footballers can learn so much about all that is best in the game simply by watching videos of the Argentinian star. 

The Football Crisis in Pakistan

In Pakistan itself, football is in something of a crisis, so much so that Pakistan’s own footballing star, 28 year-old, Kaleemullah Khan, has appealed to Prime Minister, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, for help.

Seeking Intervention from Imran Kahn

The PM, known more simply as Imran Kahn, was himself a sporting celebrity, and the pinnacle of his cricketing career was when he led Pakistan to victory in the Cricket World Cup in 1992. It was Khan’s love of sport that Kaleemullah was hoping to draw on when he implored him to get involved in saving football from disappearing in their country.

Legal issues and other problems have resulted in fewer competitions in the last five years. In an attempt to resolve matters, FIFA appointed a normalisation committee in September 2019 with instructions that they should hold elections for the PFF (Pakistan Football Federation). However, having failed to meet this target by June 2020, FIFA extended the mandate until the end of 2020.

It is this failure to get their act together that has resulted in Kaleemullah Khan appealing to Prime Minister Imran Khan. If Kaleemullah can mobilise the PM’s backing, it could stop any further fragmentation, causing football to stagnate even further.

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