KARACHI: Football enthusiasts as well relatives and friends of the dead and surviving victims were in shock following the bomb explosion that killed at least eight people at a football event in Lyari on Wednesday.
Even after hours of the blast there was a crowd of people gathered around the crater created by the explosive device, many of them wearing their favourite club jerseys. “I live at Cheel Chowk and I thought the blast was near my home. It was that loud,” said 13-year-old Asim Shah, a player of the Young Kalakot Football Club.
“My whole flat shook,” said Gul Bibi pointing towards a tall building on the other side of the Bizenjo Chowk on Chakiwara Road, where the explosion took place.
The narrow winding lanes in the area led to a house with a mother mourning her son’s death. Abdul Basit, 17, was also one of the spectators at the final, who was killed in the blast. “My son was obsessed with football. He couldn’t play much as our circumstances forced him to work as a rickshaw mechanic. He was such a good boy,” Yasmeen, the mother cried.
Nasreen, Basit’s eldest sister, said that still her brother made the time to enjoy the sport. “He loved to watch the matches in the area whenever he could. He would leave at night to watch the games and returned home only at sehri. But today’s sehri was followed by his burial at Mewa Shah,” she said as her youngest sister, Khatija, brought out their brother’s photograph. At the Civil Hospital Karachi’s Surgical-2 ward, where most of the wounded were rushed after the incident, 15-year-old Saad Ashraf, a student of class IX at the Khatri Islamia School, was recuperating after surgery to take out the ball bearings from his chest, left shoulder and left leg. “He enjoys watching the neighbourhood matches with his friends. Three of the other kids who lost their lives were his friends,” said Husna, the boy’s grandmother who was there with the boy’s uncle Mohammad Yasin.
“My son and daughter-in-law have been here at Saad’s bedside since last night. We forcibly sent them home this morning to get some rest,” she said. “My grandson was so excited about who will win the Shuhada-i-Lyari Ramazan Tournament this year. He was constantly talking about it. How will he take the death of his friends now,” she said quietly looking at the semi-conscious boy on the bed.
“You may have heard lots of things about the bad situation in Lyari but this place was different,” said Shah Mir, secretary general of the Karachi Mohammedan Football Club.
“We put up big screens to show the Premier League, Champions League and World Cup matches here live. Kids as well as grownups from all over Lyari come here to watch the matches and nothing like this has happened here ever before.”
The elderly gentleman, a fine Pakistan Railways footballer of his time, told Dawn that his club had been organising a Ramazan football tournament, the Shuhada-i-Lyari Ramazan Tournament, at Rexer Lane, Chakiwara, near Bizenjo Chowk for several years now. “There used to be a football ground, the Ishaq Football Ground, here,” he said gesturing towards the shops in the area.
“But it was encroached upon in 1993 and converted into this market. But that hasn’t stopped us from holding our annual month-long football tournament even though it is street football now. Yesterday saw the final being played between Baba Ladla-99 and Ladla-102. The local club teams feature Pakistan’s national-level and international players from big departments such as the KPT, PIA, NBP, HBL and KESC. Baba Ladla-99 is the reigning champion for the past three years and was defending its title this year as well.
“We must have had over 4,000 spectators here. Most of them, especially the youngsters were watching the match from the shops’ rooftops. There was only one exit from there and they were climbing down as our chief guest was about to leave when the explosion happened. It must have been around 2am,” the tournament official explained.