Podiumed with their third place-finish in the Street Child World Cup Football concluded recently in Brazil and clinching bronze medal beating team USA, young hopefuls of Pakistan returned home with faces glowing with triumph forgetting the harsh realities of life they have been confronting with in streets.

Beaming tributes, blooming complements and encouraging slogans welcomed them as true heroes. This endeavour on the part of our children has held our heads high in pride. Making history of embellishing triumphs, securing a pristine position in the mega event is yet another proof of the high class talent available in this country. Short on even basic facilities of life and higher on courage, the kind of stuff, competitive spirit and strength exhibited by these children while competing with countries already obsessed with this all-time favourite game of football and figure repeatedly in international football events is indeed incredible and deserve all sorts of praise, acknowledgement and appreciation at every level. This journey from ‘Path to Podium’ undertaken by Pakistani boys is a setting stage for a remarkable football team in the making which can really do the difference if nurtured and taken care of in an appropriate and disciplined manner.

True opportunity to excel and demonstrate one’s abilities not only earns a person applause from all quarters but also respect and name for the country. Unfortunate part is that opportunities of such openings for our youth are extremely remote owing to financial constraints, social obligations and rare patronage from the state. We are not fond of hunting the talent rather wait that someone may surface of his/her own and perform something extraordinary to attract the attention and support of the concerned ministry or department and that too happens very rarely.

Talent is not scarce and determination is not lacking in our people but a vibrant organisational structure, state’s effective sponsorship and will to hunt exceptionally talented individuals to help them further hone their skills and earn complements for the country and the nation. Uncertainty on a secure means of living is another stumbling block in the way of talent development in our country. Talent often goes unnoticed for want of reasonable chances to develop and compete. However in this endeavor to explore hidden genius of young, talented but unnoticed youth the role of political regime in Punjab and Sports Board Punjab (SBP) is indeed appreciable for an open and fair opportunity has been extended to all indiscriminately to come forward and prove their strengths not only in sports but also in all other walks of life through the platform of Punjab Youth Festival.

This initiative of the Sports Board Punjab not only drew lavish praise from all quarters in the country but also sports loving countries from around the world. This festival provided an equal opportunity to all to come forward and compete in their respective areas of interest and specialization. The end result is remarkable and a pool of young talented people is produced who can compete in different sports/faculties at international level.

Healthy activities reflect a lively and progressive nation. Sports, games, tournaments, competitions and contests are the natural treatment of intolerance, fanaticism, narrowness and provide for patience, tolerance, respect for each other and acceptance of every one’s right. The other aspect is the growth of talented young people who need little attention and assistance to polish themselves and show their strength and ability in a particular field.

The street children who have won accolades for the country should not be restricted to some gifts and financial help rather properly trained and patronized to build a national level team comprising these brilliant football players who can beat stronger teams of the world. This is high time to capitalize the opportunity and turn these enthusiastic boys into a bundle of matchless players. They should immediately be picked for a bigger role in this game of football by imparting professional training through some world renowned football coaches, besides catering for their financial requirements to provide them fair opportunities to develop and have worry free time to fully devote and direct their attention on this game.

Delay in managing them instantly would pale their spirits and expedite chances to lose these shining stars. A holistic approach is needed to reshape and redesign our priorities, make the system more vibrant, responsive and proactive to cater for the changing trends in the world of sports, hunt the talent timely from all ranks and files and train them to achieve excellence. Those with a relatively less talent but an aptitude for a particular activity may also be picked, polished and provided with a fair chance to compete and rise. Youth is the most potential asset with us and must be effectively utilized for the uplift of our country by making all sorts of facilities available to them and diverting resources towards desired directions. A mechanism be evolved that no talent to go unattended and be a part of a particular field at an appropriate time. Strength of the mainstream teams to be maintained by putting in new and talented stuff regularly so that if a senior leaves after playing his part the youngsters to fill the gap in a spirited way to keep the grace and strength of the game/field/faculty intact.

–The writer is Deputy Secretary in Govt. of Punjab