In The Spirit Of Hospitality: Shafqat Memorial Futsal Tournament

In The Spirit Of Hospitality: Shafqat Memorial Futsal Tournament

The sunlight flickers like glitter over the jewel-blue water of the Hunza River. Rising 8,200 feet above sea level, resting peacefully under the shadows of the snow-clad peaks of the Rakaposhi- Ultar and the Golden Peak, the sweet scent of roses and lilies lingers in the air of the small town of Karimabad, the capital of Hunza. 20 years ago members of the LUMS Adventure Society (LAS) ventured into the Gilgit-Baltistan Region and landed in Karimabad. Ever since it has been a home for LAS.

The LUMS Adventure Society is proudly the largest student-run adventure society in Pakistan. It was founded in 1998 with its first members enthusiastically bent upon discovering the treasures veiled in the mountains of  Northern Pakistan. As a senior member at LAS, Abdullah Baig tells it, “Over its 20-year legacy, LAS has been dedicated to exploring new areas and trekking on trails others would think twice before embarking on.” And over the years, their various expeditions have introduced them to and helped them become ever so familiar with the unrivaled hospitality of the people of the Gilgit-Baltistan region. According to Mr. Javed, owner of Hilltop Hotel “LAS is conscious about the unique position they hold in the Gilgit-Baltistan community, and they have always worked hard at giving back and thanking these people for their help, guidance and kindness.”

LAS carries out a number of activities throughout the year that involve taking trips to the northern areas. Their premier flagship event is the May Trip, during which four-day trekking trips are organized, going to several different locations and meeting at Karimabad on the fifth day. Shortly after the LAS May Trip 2017, Mr. Shafqat Hussain, passed away. Mr. Hussain had gone to great lengths for the development of Karimabad. The late owner of Cafe de Hunza was not only a long known associate and colleague of LAS but also a dear friend.  In order to honor the memory of the late Mr. Shafqat, and in order to pay tribute and celebrate the legacy of development he left behind, LAS organized the Shafqat Memorial Futsal Tournament during their May Trip 2018. LAS is aware that no thank-you is enough to show their gratitude for all that the people of the Gilgit-Baltistan area have done for them. After the death of Shafqat bhai (of Cafe De Hunza), however, they realized they had lost family. Consequently, they understood the importance of celebrating family. “For our vendors, porters and guides, though it might only seem a minute repayment compared to their colossal contributions, it is a way to make clear our intention – we are not a travel company, we are a family,” says LAS member Zain Ali.

Eight teams from regions spanning the vast area between Haramosh to Shimshal were invited to come to Karimabad for this 3-day event from the 26th to the 28th of May 2018. Amongst other things, this event meant to serve as a basis to unearth talent, as well as promote healthy competition, provide exposure, and encourage the growth of sports in this region. LAS solely executed the entire event, along with providing all the necessities such as footballs, playing kits, and nets. This event would not have been made possible without their official sponsors, long-term partners Mountain Dew, and High-Velocity Sports, Islamabad.

The event kick-started with an Opening Ceremony on the afternoon of the 26th of May 2018 at the Hilltop Hotel, Karimabad. The trophy was unveiled in front of all 8 participating teams, followed by the distribution of LAS and Dew sponsored Jerseys to the teams. The groups were decided and the format of the tournament was explained. The tournament had officially commenced.

In zeal and excitement, a marching band leads all 8 teams and LAS representatives towards the football ground. The drumming of the band echoed through the town, breaking the silence of the afternoon. What was happening was never before seen in Karimabad. With each beat of the drum, a new flame of excitement was kindled amongst the inhabitants of the town. While shopkeepers and residents alike peeped through their windows, curious spectators on the streets joined in the grandeur of the event.

After a roaring march of crowds and teams to the football ground, the matches began. The hustle and bustle around the ground was evidence of the exhilaration and fervor of the locals. Everyone felt equally involved.

The flurry of competitive matches saw each team aiming to top their group to cement their place in the semi-final. Only the hosts, Karimabad were able to confirm their semi-final spot by the end of day 1. The next day saw the standard of football rise as the teams had become accustomed to the ground and style of play. By the end of day 2, we had our 4 semifinalists in Shimshal, Gilgit, Aliabad and as confirmed on day 1, Karimabad. Day 3 began with Aliabad and Shimshal kicking off our first semifinal.

The mercurial talent on display from Aliabad proved too much for Shimshal who had no answer to the dominance of Aliabad. The latter semi-final was much more competitive with Gilgit coming from behind and nicking the game in its dying moments.

To settle the tension created amongst the crowns and the team after these two grueling and intense matches, LAS played 2 exhibition matches. The first was against the senior team of Karimabad, and as the saying goes ‘old is gold’, the seniors won their match against LAS. The second match was against the hometown of Shafqat bhai, Hyderabad, which LAS managed to narrowly win by one goal. The exhibition matches too left everyone feeling a strong sense of familiarity, a sense of importance and belonging. The true aim of the event was being fulfilled – finding unity in difference yet at the same time celebrating this diversity.

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The two exhibition matches were played in good faith, after which it was time to tend to what all the former proceedings had led up to Gilgit vs. Aliabad, the grand finale. You could see the poise in the eyes of both teams, both fancied taking home the trophy. With the whistle, both teams began to attack in a match that constantly kept you on the edge of your seat.  After 30 minutes there was no winner, meaning both teams had to now endure the drama of penalties. With every kick, the whole ground would hold its breath, which would later be followed by a deafening roar from each team. Going back and forth, with both teams missing opportunities to win, it ultimately came down to the Aliabad player who kept his composure and as soon as he the ball left his foot, the whole of Aliabad knew they were crowned Champions of the Shafqat Memorial Futsal Tournament.

The final was followed by a Closing Ceremony on the 28th May 2018, where prizes were distributed to everyone responsible for the execution of such a grand event. The winners and runners-up received their medals and trophies. LAS gave a special note of thanks to the Agha Khan Youth Foundation and Mr. Sartaj, without whose help a sporting event of this magnitude could not have been arranged. An elaborate round of thanks and speeches, lead to the conclusion of the event. As it had begun with a parade, a march with the band from the ground to the Hilltop Hotel marked the end of this ground-breaking endeavor.

“LAS is this proud to have hosted the Shafqat Memorial Futsal Tournament and intends on continuing this tradition of celebration and show of gratitude,” says member Hashim Umair as the event had successfully accomplished all that is aimed.

Namra Nadeem

Lums Adventure Society

Shehryar Ejaz

Shehryar Ejaz

Shehryar serves as the Editor In Chief of The Daily 360. He is currently pursuing his undergraduate from Lahore University of Management Sciences. Twitter: @sheryejaz

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