City Landmarks – Coach Emad Football Academy, Singo Lane, Lyari

Breathtaking. The moment you enter from the gate and adjust to the view, it takes your breath away. Lyari and its resilient people have always been inspiring and what you see and what you experience at Coach Emad Football Academy inspires you the way very few things could in this city.

I often struggle with landmarks and directions. Therefore I request Zohaib, a dear friend from the area to accompany me to the academy. We take the road leading to Gabol park. The road gets narrower and crowded afterwards. I see a lot of young children walking carelessly. Is it a good thing or bad? I wonder. A bad thing in most areas of the town and first reaction might be to lookdown on this freedom that these kids enjoy but then sometimes we feel this itch that deep in our warm and secure homes we might be missing on something. but that’s a conversation for some other time. A little further we see two policemen inspecting a group of boys, possibly for drugs. We see some rides for children on one side full of children laughing and waving joyfully. After a turn or two we reach Singo lane, another narrow street. The beautiful backdrop of the academy is still not visible. We stop a little further. Apparently we have reached the gate. We meet Waseem at the entrance, who manages the academy on day to day basis. He opens the gate and let us in. It’s as if we get transported to a football field somewhere in Latin America with kids running the field and a colorful backdrop making the field worthy to be featured as a training ground in next EA Sports FIFA edition. In these pages I have often talked about the quality of philanthropic initiatives by denizens of Karachi of yore. This belongs up there. With the very best.

Coach Emad Football Academy has been setup by Azfar Naqvi – a banker from Karachi – in honor of his son Emad who tragically passed away in 2018. Emad, an avid football enthusiast was completing his college in Boston and pursuing his coaching licenses at the same time before he passed away. Emad had been involved in philanthropic work already in Karachi and Boston, working with SIUT in Karachi and then with handicapped students at Ivy Street School in Boston. He intended to work at some stage in Lyari – home to one of the most football enthusiast community.

Therefore it was befitting that Azfar Naqvi ended up setting up the academy named after him in Sarbazi football ground in Singo lane – a once troubled but promising neighborhood. Azfar, of course did not know it from the beginning. With the help of his colleagues and friends, the idea of setting up an academy took shape over months and materialized after signing a lease for ten years. The destiny of the ground changed since the newly incorporated Coach Emad Foundation – a not for profit organization – took charge. 

The field is divided in two parts for the day. The younger kids are participating in a training session while senior kids are playing a practice match in the other half. They also have a serious audience watching and applauding their every move. We walk around the field. Footballers from Lyari has always found inspiration from Brazilian footballers but I sense the younger generation has found new heroes with a lot of kids wearing jerseys of their favorite footballers from European leagues. On a wall I see logos of a lot of clubs painted. Close to Liverpool club’s logo, I see Ian Rush’s initials. Curiously, I ask Waseem about it and he confirms that Ian Rush had visited this very field a year or two back! Ian Rush is one of the greatest forwards of his time and a Liverpool legend.

Kids are wearing proper equipment and Waseem tells me that the academy not only supports children in buying the equipment but also has Education assistance program that includes providing financial assistance to underprivileged children for their education.

In our busy fulfilled lives we often feel the urge to find more meaningful experiences and contribute to the society at large but never find enough resolve to go ahead and do anything about it. Perhaps because it requires a lot of resources; time, money and effort and our fleeting ambition gets delayed to another weekend of existential crisis. But you can totally contribute to philanthropic initiatives such as Coach Emad Foundation and help them continue making difference to so many lives.

Categories: City Landmarks

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