KARACHI: Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has helped set a football match between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the United Nations’ World Peace Day.
Pakistan Football Federation’s marketing consultant Sardar Naved Haider Khan told Dawn on Saturday that the Pakistan national team will take part in the match which will be held on Sept 21 with the proceeds going to the Malala foundation.
“Despite a grueling schedule for the national team, we will be taking part in the match as it is for a very noble initiative,” Naveed Haider said.
His views were echoed by PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat. “It is a matter of great pride for the Pakistan team to be a part of such an amazing international event which is being held for a very noble cause,” he said.
“For all our players who will play in this match, it would be a proud moment.”
The announcement of the game came at the 2013 Peace and Sport Dubai Forum earlier this week with British-born Pakistani footballer Kashif Siddiqi launching the initiative alongside the 15-year-old Malala, who was shot in the head on her school bus by extremists whilst defending her right to a girl’s education in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Swat.
Malala’s foundation aims to offer a safe place for girls to study as well as financial support for their families in her hometown of Swat.
Malala, who is still being treated in Britain for her injuries, appeared at the Peace and Sport Dubai Forum via a recorded video message.
“Thank you so much, for support of education and equality for girls, through the power of sport, on such a significant day,” she said. “I look forward to visiting you in Dubai in the very near future and hope to attend the festivities with my family.”
The forum is running under the theme, “building sustainable peace through sport. Together,” and has brought together decision makers from the world of politics, sport and the private sector.
“Hope for peace still remains as long as sports can meaningfully play a role in bridging the gaps and misunderstandings that exist today,” said Joel Bouzou, President and founder of Peace and Sport in a statement.
Kashif Siddiqi made the official announcement at the forum which was being held for the first time in the Gulf and Arab region.
The 27-year-old Kashif, who received his first call-up to the Pakistan team in May 2007, runs his own Kashif Siddiqi foundation (KSF) which aims to inspire young British Asians to carve out a career in football.
“As a co-founder of the Football for Peace movement I was drawn to Malala’s story and saw her power to be a role model for the next generation of their country and beyond,” he said at the forum.
The KSF, along with the Gol Iluminado Foundation, has collaborated to create Football For Peace, a movement that works as an organised commitment of goodwill, working on concrete “Education Through Sport” legacy projects and initiatives.
“We are honored to be utilising our first of many Events in Dubai, to assist Malala with achieving her dreams and goals for health care, education, protection, equality and peace,” he said.
“The UAE has been very accommodating in what our vision is. The Peace and Sports has come aboard and it has given the KSF a push. The UAE is a strong nation and the plan is to echo the good work around the world.”
Kashif, who currently plays for English football league club Northampton Town, is also looking to ‘football diplomacy’ in bringing India and Pakistan closer.
“We are trying to arrange a match between India and Pakistan in India,” said the defender who also played for Al-Wasl in the UAE Pro-league. “And if plans to hold the match in India hit the roadblocks, we can think about playing it in Dubai.”Kashif, who has also played in the US, is also looking at the option of holding a match with a combined India-Pakistan team in the Chilean capital of Santiago in December.
“I am good friends with the India team captain Sunil Chetri and this match will be a unique experience for players from both countries as we will be playing in one team against the team comprising UN ambassadors for sport,” he said on the sidelines of the forum.
The initiative comes almost a month before India and Pakistan play a friendly match in London.
That friendly match is a part of a tri-series also involving Bangladesh which is being organized by Indian-based event management company Celebrity Management Group.