By Ali Hazara
My Sunday mornings are predictable; getting up around 9ish and walking out straight to the front porch to get the Dawn newspaper hoping that I would be the first to grab it, unroll it and enjoy the first read, which is usually while I relieve myself (this might be too much information!) but this has become a ritual. The flow of the read is also very predictable; front page, back page then work my way backwards through the international news and reviews to the editorials then the local news which gives way to the comic strips and then comes the sports section which is the last as the sports news is usually dominated by cricket; an affair which I find too dry.
However, this particular Sunday had an unpredictable twist in it; whilst going through the Sports section I came across a report on the Hazaras reaching the final of the 5th All Pakistan NBP Football League being held in Karachi! The Hazara Green Quetta (Greens) had beaten Karachi Port Trust (big upset of the tournament) on penalties (5-4) to reach the finals (held on 13th Feb, 2011) – I just couldn’t miss the final and had to go and support our boys in Green! The venue details for this particular championship was not very detailed in fact only the name of the stadium (which I later realized was under construction) was given; ‘Community Sports Club’.
Where could this be? In this sprawling, confused and filthy mega polis which houses 20 million plus souls! Has to be in areas dominated by the Makrani Baloch’s, I think to myself; the only group in Karachi which has a love for this game – and this would mean a locality which one would not willingly like to venture to.
A football fanatic friend who has a good idea of the few grounds in this city should have an idea; but after texting him I realized this particular ground was unknown to him as well. So I ended up Googling it and got a lead; Malir Town! Now Malir is a city unto itself and this lead was akin to finding a needle in a haystack. In the end; I managed to get a good idea about the location from a friend who heads the Sales department of a tobacco company (Tobacco distribution is very extensive and the network covers every nook and corner of the city). The friend while giving the details also gave an advice; ‘just handover your car if confronted – no need to become a hero!’ Gulp!
The match was scheduled to kick off at 1530hrs; I left my place at 1430hrs. Although the drive was around thirty minutes but I had to ask for directions. After initially being lost I finally managed to locate the venue to my good luck as I barely managed to reach just in time for the kick off.
The final of the 5th All Pakistan NBP Leagues was about to get underway; the tournament which fielded 48 teams from the five districts of Karachi and 12 national teams (from Bahawalpur, Pishin, Peshawar, Quetta etc..) was underway since a month and a half. Two Hazara clubs (Pak Hazaras and Hazara Green Club) had participated and the Greens managed to reach the final; up against Singh Government Press (in Blue outfit). The SGP had defeated the NBP in their semi final match.
Amongst a plethora of local Hazara clubs, three clubs, namely; Hazara Green Quetta, Pak Hazara and Hazara Club are renowned and dominate the national football landscape. Three players from the Green’s also have the honor of playing for the Pakistan national side!
Back in the ground as I reached, the boys (Bachaha) in Green were warming up for the encounter!
The team formation on the ground was 4:3:3 (Defense, Mid field and Forward respectively). The playing eleven included:
Forwards: Aqeel (conspicuous by his red cleats; putting the ground on fire with his speed), Abdul Qayum (short in height but not on talent!), and Muhammad Ali Kakai (the Captain)
Midfield: Zakir Hussain International (also the coach), Saadullah and Hussain Ali
Defense: Dilshad Ali International (also in the Pakistani National side!), Asghar Ali, Qasim and Naseebullah
Goal Keeper: Ajab Khan
Standing from L-R: Asghar Ali, Dilshad Ali, Zakir Hussain International, Aqeel, Saadullah, Qasim
Sitting from L-R: Nasibullah Dadal, Mohammad Ali kakai (Captain), Ajab Khan (GK) Abdul Qayum, Hussain Ali
It is worth noting that three players were Pushtun brothers in the Green outfit. This goes to show that the inter-ethnic harmony of Quetta is a beautiful reality. If we can train, play and win together on the sports field then why this can’t be extended to every aspect of life? I see no reason why!
The first ten minutes were spent in settling in by both teams but then the Greens upped the ante around the 20th minute, when the Greens first attack was almost finished off with a header by Dilshad only to be saved by the opposing keeper. Around the 25th minute Aqeel fumbled a chance and the score board remained unchanged to 0-0. The Greens continued to attack in the first half but the forwards were being called offside (more than 3 offside calls in the first half). Around the 30th minute a collision took place between Kakai and the opposing GK which floored him. In the 35th minute a beautiful cross from Aqeel was not supported by others and thus wasted.
Three corners were awarded to the Greens and two to the opposing camp – but the score board remained unchanged on the half time.
(After the half time heading to the room to catch a breath and discuss way forward)
In the first minute of the 2nd half Aqeel pulled out a stunning move capturing the opposing team with surprise but their Goal Keeper managed a great save. The second half then swung in favor of the Blue’s and they managed to earn two corners in the 50th and 62nd minutes but were unable to capitalize on them. The first substitution of the game came in the 70th minute carried out by the Blue’s; interestingly the Green’s played the entire match with the same side as three first lineup players were injured before the game; rendering the Green’s at a disadvantage of experienced fresh legs.
Finally with some good footwork and coordination the Blues managed to penetrate the Green’s defense and scored field goal in the 76th minute (the scorer’s Bilal Afridi had also managed a hat trick in the semifinal match with NBP).
The Greens were now trailing and were forced to speed the game up. They managed to carve out a beautiful move through a corner but the Blue’s Goalie managed a brilliant save denying the Greens a goal. The game took an ugly turn when a Blue’s player was sent off with a red card for a very harsh move – the heat was now on the Blues trying to defend their one goal advantage with just ten men. From here onwards the game was played in the Blue’s half with the Green’s attacking by wave after wave with around five close attempts on the goal. But it was some dramatic goal keeping and an unlucky streak which kept the Green’s trailing for the rest of the game. The additional injury time of four minutes also didn’t yield the desired result for the Green’s and as the final whistle blew the crowds just swarmed the ground.
All in all, in the last ten minutes the crowd was on their feet cheering and jeering as the encounter was full of suspense. The crowd support was equally split between the Green’s and Blue’s and both were given a lively applause when the respective captains came to receive their trophies.
(The Hazara Green benches – Team Manager Sakhi Agha in the extreme right)
(Red card to a Blues player by Janahgir Khan; the referee from Quetta)
(Runners up trophy by an MQM MNA)
As the prize distribution ceremony ended; I thanked the Hazara Green’s management (Asif Ali in particular) for being a good sport and entertaining (which also included invitation for dinner; reminding me of the very hospitable nature of our Qawma) a complete stranger (me) like one of their own.
The passion infused with humility in these greatly talented lads is simply a testimony of the true potential of our great Qawma – do keep in mind that these heroes in Green are managing an entire club on their own, with no official grant or assistance and they managed to beat clubs which are supported, financed and trained by established government institutions (KPT et al.). They are without a doubt the unsung heroes (all sports people) of our Qawma whose example we should emulate; the living example of ‘Passion knows no boundaries’. I would love to admit here, that I am truly glad to have witnessed this match as it has reinvigorated me with a spirit which was being dampened by all the negativity around us. I wish them success and victories in all their future endeavors – make us proud boys…Salamat Baashin!
(Asif – can’t play due to a knee injury; but supports the team as an organizer; True passion!)