It might not necessarily be considered a typical football nation, but a striking new academy has been launched in Pakistan with Uefa-accredited coaches.
Lahore, the capital of the Punjab in Pakistan and the country’s second-largest city, will now offer a football academy. Called the Legends Academy, it enrols over 300 children, both boys and girls, who take part in regular training sessions.
Owner of the academy, Hamza Syed said: “It’s the only one in the country that offers Uefa-licensed coaching. We had another initiative four or five years ago but it collapsed and we are the only one and so far we’ve got 300 kids.”
The country has its own Pakistan Premier League, with 16 teams, and although the stadiums are small, it is an important step.
Syed added: “My three coaches are all ex-Premier League, Liverpool, Arsenal and the third one is arriving tomorrow morning was at Manchester United, and he was very senior he used to run the under-9s and under-6s as an elite coach.
“This is a first of its kind venture in Pakistan.”
Football is a growing sport in Pakistan. The World Cup was available on television, and while you may not find children playing from dawn till dusk like you would cricket, it is increasingly popular.
Syed said: “The response has been fantastic. In the space (since launching a few months ago) we have 300 kids. Cricket is the national sport but in the city schools everyone follows the big leagues in Europe, everyone knows what’s going on, everyone wants to be Aguero.
“Football is big, I would say it’s a misconception [that it isn’t].”
The Lahore-based academy has girls in every age group, although the majority of children are boys.
It is currently fee-paying to enrol into sessions, but Syed is hoping that can change with further investment more scholarships can be offered.
The dream, as always, is to eventually have a Pakistani footballer playing in one of the top leagues in Europe, in a hope that would further encourage everyone in the country to take up the sport.