The 16-year-old football player from a small village in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, who used his daily salary from working at a shop to support his family, is traveling to Doha this month to compete in the Street Child World Cup with a team of 10 other football players from Pakistan.
The 28 teams from 24 nations will compete during the 11-day competition, which is being organized by the UK-based nonprofit Street Child United and takes place from October 8–15. The competition is in its fourth iteration, with the previous three taking place in South Africa (2010), Brazil (2014), and Russia (2018).
Pakistan Team & officials currently in Qatar to participate in the Street Child Football World Cup (Oct 8-15 Oxygen Park Doha) were welcomed by Ambassador Syed Ahsan Raza Shah at the Embassy of Pakistan.
In 2018, Pakistan made it to the championship game but lost to Uzbekistan. It came in third place in 2014.
Sustainability is a central issue for Street Child United so they’ve been so pleased to get involved with the ‘the Ball’ initiative with friends at Spirit of Football.
The Ball which is being ‘kicked’ all the way to the Women’s FIFA World Cup 2023 in Australia, is promoting the shared values of gender equality, fair play, and sustainability.
Team England was selected as custodians of the ball, bringing it to Qatar to get as many people signing and committing their efforts to these values.
Goalkeeper Khattak stated in Islamabad, ahead of practice with his 10-member team, which includes players from Balochistan, KP, Punjab, and Gilgit-Baltistan, “I still can’t believe I have been selected.”
The team was selected from up to 90 players who completed training through a year-long trial procedure run by the nonprofit Muslim Hands Pakistan, according to Syed Muhammad Owais, the organization’s program officer.
After the first selection, “the kids were trained in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir, and over time, there was a final selection procedure for the top 10,” Owais continued.
Muslim Hands Pakistan, a global organization, held trials in nine academies spread across the nation, “giving children the opportunity to display their passion on an international platform,” according to Owais.
Muhammad Rasheed, the head coach, claimed that the trial project had reached street players who couldn’t afford to attend academies.
The coach stated, “We go to them and do trials and bring them here and groom them technically, tactically, cognitively, and in terms of their PR, we also do personality grooming. Those who do not get the chance to reach this degree.
In order to support their children’s professional football careers—many of whom are employed—the families of the chosen applicants were also granted stipends during the trial procedure, according to Owais.
According to UNICEF, 3.3 million children in Pakistan are forced into child labor, depriving them of their youth, health, and education, and dooming them to a life of abject poverty.
Khattak grinned cynically and remarked, “Basically, I had no support from my family; they never let me play.” “Even to deliver the trial, I came without telling my family and skipped work [at my job], for which I was severely abused because I didn’t get paid that day.”
“Back in the day, my father was a goalkeeper as well, but due to [financial] difficulties, he stopped playing football and advised me not to participate as well.”
Now, however, Khattak said he was “very happy” to be part of the team and glad that eight long months of training had paid off.
“The way we have been practicing, sir [coach] has trained us day and night,” he said. “So, we are hopeful that we will win the title.”