Friday, September 29, 2023

Four out of the six abducted footballers 'recovered', confirms official

Six footballers were abducted while on their way to Balochistan's Dera Bugti on September 9

A match in progress during the CM Balochistan Gold Cup 2022 — Directorate General of Sports Balochistan
A match in progress during the CM Balochistan Gold Cup 2022 — Directorate General of Sports Balochistan

Balochistan's Additional Chief Secretary Saleh Nasir confirmed on Friday that four out of the six footballers who were abducted in Dera Bugti have been recovered.

According to Nasir, the abducted footballers were rescued thanks to collaborative efforts by the local administration and law enforcement agencies (LEAs).

"The remaining two footballers will also be recovered soon," assured the official said.

Six footballers, while on their way to Sibbi were abducted from Balochistan's Jani Bair area of Dera Bugti earlier this month on September 9.

The players were residents of Dera Bugti and Sui. They were going to Sibi to take part in the qualifying round of the All Pakistan Chief Minister Gold Cup football tournament," Dera Bugti’s deputy commissioner had said earlier.

Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti had blamed terrorists for the kidnapping.

“An operation is being planned to recover the players. Teams of Frontier Corps, deputy commissioner, commissioner and Levies Force were working to trace the suspects,” Bugti said.

Cricket might be the most popular sport in Pakistan but the same can’t be said for its largest province, Balochistan, since football here is a tool that promotes social cohesion among communities and helps them escape the harsh realities of life.

However, despite the ever-growing interest in football in Balochistan, only a few are lucky enough to pursue the game professionally due to the lack of a proper system and employment opportunities.

The departmental structure in Pakistan usually shows little interest in the development of players, promotion of the sport and working at the grassroots level since it is already funded by the government. This adds to the misery of places like Balochistan which is in dire need of investment in sports and especially football.

Mismanagement and rift between players and officials has always been an Achilles heel for Pakistan football over the past few years and the same is the case with Balochistan.

With the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) suffering from administrative infighting and bans by FIFA in the recent past, little or no attention was given to issues in Balochistan.