Cricket is being followed religiously in Pakistan. However, a foreigner football coach, who calls himself half Pakistani, Adam Jama Waberi believes that if England’s legend David Beckham visits Pakistan, football will surpass the popularity of cricket in the country. “When Ronaldinho announced his visit to Pakistan, my academy was flooded with admission requests,” recalled Adam Jama, the founder of Gulshan Soccer Academy. “If David Beckham visits Pakistan, football will become the most popular sport in the country.”
Adam Jama, who has got the nickname of Adamjee in Pakistan, left his native country, Djibouti to pursue his religious education in 1999. He never planned to stay in the country for so long. During his student life, he was missing an important part of his personality, football. He first thought that there are no football lovers in the country, however, after some time he realized that soccer is a popular sport here. “I realized that there is football in this country, though there are very few grounds for that, young men are enjoying the sport in streets,” he mentioned.
Adamjee started off his club career then. Afterwards, he met some Baloch players and he realized how passionate these men are about the game. The man from Africa was mesmerized by their passion. “Soccer is everything for Baloch people, it is like oxygen to them, I was surprised to witness that, only Africans or Latin America have such passion for it” he recalled.
He was once asked to visit Lyari by his friends, he was more than grateful to tour the historical locality of Karachi. This part of the city is well-known for sporting activities, they have produced a number of boxers, martial artists, and footballers. “When I visited Lyari, I felt like I was in Brazil, there were flags of international teams, children who looked like me were playing football in the streets, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I am not in Africa but Lyari, it was beautiful,” he shared his experience smiling.
Waberi was a wonderful footballer in his youth, but he is not shy to accept that during his age. Even now, there are some quite capable individuals playing club soccer in Pakistan, but they do not get the deserved support. He believes that people here tend to ignore the local talent. “I and my game were respected because I am a foreigner, however, there were many players that were better than me, but they never got the appreciation. People listen to my words, probably because I am a foreigner so they think I know better about this game. Foreigners always stay at the top here,” he told. “People praise my coaching style, the way I used to play and all, I thank them, but then I say that there are many better than me,” he added.
Seeing the love for the sport in the country, Adamjee launched Gulshan Soccer Academy (GSA) in 2006. Four years later, he got it registered as a club in District central with the name of Gulshan Soccer Club (GSC). The club is run under proper laws of a club, they maintain players’ profiles which include matches they played, goals scored, bookings they had and similar statistics. There are twenty-five players in the club, whereas, thirty individuals are kept in reserves. GSA trains kids from the age eight years to eighteen years, they have some strict rules and Waberi wants complete dedication from his students. “Football should not be only limited to the field that you went to play, enjoyed and came home, that’s it. You have to learn football to play,” says Adamjee. He told that Pakistanis can become a quality cricketer just by playing the sport, however, they have to establish a mentality to learn football if they want to become a professional.
Adam Jama Waberi highlighted two major reasons for lack of development of the sport in the country. First, he feels there is no system or scrutiny, every club has complete freedom, no one checks whether their coaching methods are up to the standard or not. “I am working on kids with all my heart and soul, but who knows my methods are correct?” he asked. “I design my training with my staff and apply, no one bothers to ask what I am doing,” he added. He raised the question on this freedom given to clubs by the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF). “There will be many coaches who will be working like kings in their districts considering themselves as unanswerable to anyone, which is harmful to the game.”
He also highlighted the fact that there is no platform in Pakistan where footballers can showcase their skills. “This country has an abundance of talent,” he said confidently. He again blamed the system that there is no proper channel to deal with the talent. He believes there should be a structure regarding unearthing potential players. “It should be the responsibility of district football federation or FIFA or Pakistan Football Federation to spot talent in the streets. There should be some coaches at the district level, there is no such system, despite everyone wants something like that,” he went on to say.
Though, he has spent decades here in Pakistan, he still considers himself just a guest in the country. He does not like to talk about PFF as he denies to count himself as a stakeholder. “I have no right to talk about PFF, I am a foreigner, I am performing my duties, I cannot do anything more for the game in Pakistan,” he explained.
He also criticized media for not giving enough importance to football. “Why there is no coverage of the sports?” questions Adamjee. He feels that little media coverage will give budding footballers a motivation to perform and appear on television or any other media platform. “Media is the most powerful phenomenon in the world. If they give football the due coverage in Pakistan, young footballers will get inspired to do better and get highlighted, moreover, it will motivate the coaches to work harder on their players so that they also get recognition” he added.