Lyari: Fighting crime with football

Posted on June 22, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, Society, Sports
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Adil Najam

Pakistan–or, at least, Lyari–has reason to celebrate the Football World Cup 2006. As the World Cup fever rises, crime in this area drops.

The correlation is clear, and the causality is implied. Now, if we could only have a Football World Cup that lasts all year long, every year.Here are the details according to a story being reported by Reuters (22 June, 2006):

Javed Akhtar Baloch, a councillor in Lyari, densely populated district of Karachi, is a happy man these days. He knows that while the residents of his district in the port city sit riveted in front of televisions watching the World Cup, he will not have to deal with the usual daily flurry of street crime and drug abuse. “Soccer is like a religion for them,� Baloch said. “They support Brazil just like they would Pakistan.�

Lyari, one of the oldest and most densely populated parts of the city, is plagued by street crime, drugs, unemployment and deprivation but Baloch said during the World Cup there was a noticeable fall-off in crime... Police confirmed there were fewer reports of street crime while the World Cup was on.

Like everywhere in the world, football (soccer) fever is high all over Pakistan (see photographs of Pakistani girls painting their faces and hands with football motifs; these pictures from Multan).

However, FIFA World Cup fever is nowhere higher than it is in Lyari. Lyari has 140 registered soccer clubs and many of the country’s top players emerge from the area. The Pakistan Football team that won the Gold Medal at the 2004 South Asian Federation (SAF) Games had included a number of players from this community. An earlier report in the Daily Times (9 June, 2006) had detailed this passion:

…over the last four years, there has been a steady increase in street crimes in the area. Joblessness among both educated and illiterate classes has increased just as rapidly as the sanitation, water supply and sewerage systems have deteriorated. But even though Lyari’s problems have multiplied [since the last Football World Cup], none of this has dampened its enthusiasm for football. The people of Lyari have made a variety of arrangements to enjoy FIFA. Large screen makeshift cinemas have been planned for the streets of Chakiwara, Singhu Lane, Baghdadi.

… “Yes, many people in our town have approached us for better sanitation especially during the World Cup and we are doing our best to provide them a better environment,â€Â? confirmed Malik Fayyaz, Lyari Town Nazim. This may seem like an unusual request, but Lyari is notorious as a foul smelling neighbourhood where it is understandable that fans want to watch the games out in the open. People’s homes are small and cramped and frequent power outages would disrupt their viewing pleasure. Roadside restaurants and bakra or ‘outdoor bench’ hotels are also making arrangements for cable TV hook-ups to serve for their clientele all night long.

…FIFA has special significance for the great soccer players of Lyari. Abdul Ghafoor, once known as the ‘Pele of Pakistan’ but who now uses a hearing aid and wears compound glasses, wants to see Brazil, the defending champions, win the tournament once again. But he is sad he will be watching the matches without the company of his son Abdul Ghani who was arrested a couple of years ago on charges of terrorism and is awaiting trial. Ali Nawaz, a former Pakistan captain and one of the few legends of football in the country, said the world was bracing itself for the greatest sports event on earth. “In my view every match will go down to the wire and no team will dare underestimate the other,â€Â? said Nawaz, adding that again FIFA will be a contest primarily between Latin America and Europe and he was on the side of Latinos. “It was a great privilege to live in the era of legends such as Pele and Maradonna.â€Â?

6 responses to “Lyari: Fighting crime with football”

  1. FS says:

    I think the same ought to be true of club cricket in Pakistan. I know there are teams, but it seems like there’s not a great deal of local interest. Its a shame, as this sort of thing would really be able to create a crop of consistently great Pakistani players in top form year round. Pakistan is already well regarded as a cricket playing nation. The presence of a league could really make it a perennial powerhouse.

  2. Sharmeen says:

    There is a football league in Karachi on a much smaller scale ofcourse. One of the more prominant teams is called Karachi United and they have initiated a yearly tournament, league matches etc etc…They are now running a summer camp for young boys and girls…

  3. Pakistani says:

    Boy. These girls are really from Pakistan! Was not sure until I looked carefully at the clothes and faces. ‘FIFA in Hijab’ would have been my headline.

  4. Asad says:

    Right on. This is so very ripe for the doing. A city leage, espeically in Karachi, makes so much sense. If someone with a little marketing saavy could get into this, the payoff would be great. Whether we make it to the World Cup or not, the bigger prize would be (a) giving people healthy entertainment, (b) giving them a sense of pride in their area, (c) encouraging positive competition and driving youth away from nagative competitive politics of hate and violence. In fact, I think there would even be money in this.

  5. FS says:

    Its amazing to note the general ambivalence that Pakistani society accords organized team sports.
    With rabid fans such as those in Lyari, and strong district alliances in places like Nazimabad, it would seem that Karachi (and by extension all the other cities of Pakistan) would be perfect markets for professional sports leagues. It would allow the country to hone its skills between World Cups/International Freindlies, establish a better talent pool in less popular sports such as football/soccer & perhaps open more doors and visibility for the country on the world stage.
    At home, meanwhile, it could offer great sponsorship and visibility to corporate brands or large industrial families if they were to own or sponsor a team.
    Most of all, the potential for sportsmanship and comraderie could really delivery more peace to major cities like Karachi as evidenced by this story on Lyari. Rivalries too could be settled in more constructive ways. Thousands of kids who have no other outlets could easily be on the pitch daily getting some discipline, exercise and competitive skill. And, it would be great social entertainment as well.

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