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Pakistan: Trading playground for battlefield.

Pakistan, June 27 -- Thousands of soccer fans in the garrison town of Kohat are in the grip of the Football World Cup 2010 fever. They love to sit in front of television to watch their favourite sport. Incidentally, security situation has brought football and other sports activities to a distressing halt in the region.

Taliban have been found to target the playgrounds -- remember the deadly suicide bombing during a volleyball match in the southern district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Laki Marwat, early this year, that killed as many as 90 people? Earlier, a suicide bomber hit a soccer team in Kohat, killing many a person. These attacks on sportsmen were apart from several such assaults across the province against the security forces personnel and common people.

"We are happy that the security situation is improving in the region; this will help us organise soccer tournaments once again on regular basis as was the case in the past," says Haji Mohib, a famous football star of yesteryear, presently the finance secretary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Football Association, talking to TNS.

"People in Kohat and other parts of the province are crazy about football and they want their grounds full of activity once again," he adds. "There was a time, in a not so remote past, when thousands of people would turn up at every major football event, even in a small city like Kohat."

According to him, with the security situation improving, the organisers have begun planning a provincial-level soccer tournament to be held in the next three or four weeks. This, he says, is "part of the big plan to regenerate sports activities in Kohat, Bannu and other cities."

Mohib says Kohat was always at the forefront when it came to providing a pool of soccer players to the provincial and national teams of Pakistan. "Every time a provincial team was formed, it would have at least 7 players from Kohat.

"The Kohatis are waiting anxiously to see their local stars back in action and this excitement has increased manifold with the start of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa that they watch daily on TV."

Kohat also lacks facilities like playgrounds, funds and proper training. Presently, the region boasts only one proper football ground, the Muncipal Football Ground, where the players from city's top soccer teams like Shining Football Club go about their daily practice. Interestingly, it too needs proper management.

Sajid Khan, popularly known as 'Malangi ustad' among the soccer fans in Kohat says he has been playing the game for the last 25 years. He is now patronising a local team from his village Merozai. But, unfortunately, there is very little support from the government or the district administration regaring the proper facilities to sportsmen in Kohat.

"I have two or three young soccer players who could make it easily to the national level but it's their bad luck that they are from a small town where no one can think of adopting soccer as a career because of economic compulsions," he tells TNS.

One such talented player, Shah Mohammad, 25, who is now very much a part of the provincial team, laments the fact that the sports federation has never given due attention to the promotion of soccer in Kohat, Peshawar and other towns of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. "I am lucky that I am in the provincial team but let me tell you honestly there are many boys out there in Kohat and other cities [of the province] who could become the Ronaldos and Kakas of Pakistan if trained properly

Published by HT Syndication with permission from The Friday Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com

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Publication:The Friday Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:Jun 27, 2010
Words:628
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