Contributed by: Ash Nugent Friday, March 30 2007 @ 03:10 pm ACST
Australian football first came to Pakistan through the drug-help organisation, Tanzeem-e-Insidad-e-Manashyiate (TIM) in April of last year (see Pakistan keen to spread the word). Whilst the sport is still very much in its infant stages in the country, WFN marks the league’s first birthday with a look back on AFL Pakistan’s story so far.
Mumtaz Ali Khan, a member of TIM was the major player behind the football push. TIM uses sport as a means to deter people from drugs, and assist those that are already addicted to drugs. They have a strong presence in The Swat Valley (North West Frontier Province), where some 2 million people, a largely agricultural community, lives in poverty (females being in an even worse situation than males). Khan, who first became aware of the sport on cable television, saw football as offering an edge that other sports couldn’t match – being fast, physical and requiring complete commitment. And by being foreign it offered an escape to the monotonous routines of the lives of many in the region. As a result, the organisation looking after the sport is centred in Swat.
That organisation, originally labelled the Australian Rules Football Federation of Pakistan, and now renamed the much simpler AFL Pakistan, has achieved a significant amount, when you consider that they are yet to secure sponsorship of any form.
Six clubs have been established, four of which are prepared for matches; TIM Swords, Swat Public Eagles, Jehanzeb Dolphins and the Government High #3 Bulls. The other two clubs; the Peshawar Colours and the University of Malakand are still being developed. As the names suggest, they are centred around schools, as TIM recognises youth as being the most susceptible to drug use.
AFL Pakistan also held a round robin competition last August, which was competed between the four initial clubs. The Bulls came out on top, actually ending the day undefeated.
They have another competition planned for August of this year. There will be six matches played between the 1st and the 10th of August. The two sides with the most wins will then qualify for the Grand Final to be held on Independence Day, the 14th August at the oval on Saidu Sharif rd, Mingora.
A website has been set up by AFL Pakistan[*1] to help coordinate efforts such as this upcoming tournament. It has taken Khan and current president Habib ul Haq three attempts to get a format they are happy with, and urge everyone to have a look.
Ultimately, like most footballing nations, their aim is to get the country’s national side, the Dragoons to competitions such as the International Cup and the Asian Championships, but at the moment it is about establishing a league with regular players and matches. The other major problem is sponsorship. AFL Pakistan is run entirely by volunteers. They urge anyone interested in offering sponsorship (either the body, the clubs or the upcoming competition) to contact mumtaz99 [at] gmail.com.
Editor: Both as an act of recognition for his work and for the sake of journalistic transparency we note that WFN's author, Ash, has also been working closely with AFL Pakistan in an attempt to help them reach their goals.