In his sixties, Coach Iqbal readily reminisces on the days of his prime and prowess in football: his teenage. That’s when he could run miles and be indomitable, despite coming from an impoverished household.
Speaking to ARY News, during his coaching session in Lyari’s football training center, Iqbal, at first reluctantly, said his only motivation now to coach football to youths is that the sport shall deter them from sliding into drug habits.
“It will inculcate good habits in them and will keep them from using drugs, but that’s all that will happen for them in Pakistan,” he said, rather wryly. “In a country like Pakistan, there’s no dignity in sports, nor is there any financial return for investing your whole life into a sport to represent your country.”
Iqbal’s anger and disappointment are well-placed. His whole life he struggled to get noticed by the right people in the echelons of football, and rightly so, for he scored goals and performed with prowess that he soon became that formidable player on the pitch, but his miseries never saw an end.
After retirement, Iqbal had to make do with driving a commercial rickshaw cab so he can make his ends meet but that too didn’t work for him.
“He has a son who loved playing football,” said Waseem Sarbazi, a Lyari social worker who oversees Coach Emad Football Academy, where Coach Iqbal is now employed. “His son sank in drug abuse due to bad company and poverty.”
Sarbazi notes how Lyari youth struggles to not only achieve their goals, but also to overcome the unnecessary hurdles put in their way. Here we have limited to no resources that we can tap into, he said.
“It’s all fancy and pretentious when they call Lyari mini Brazil for its football passion and that’s true that Lyari people love the sport…,” Sarbazi tells ARY News, adding that but when it comes to the fruition of their efforts, hardwork and passions “… there’s no return.”