Pakistani football may be languishing in the doldrums but its footballs are set to shine at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday.
Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Dedov had recently confirmed that the balls to be used at this summer's spectacle — called Telstar 18 — will be manufactured in Pakistan.
The announcement had come as little surprise as the footballs used at the tournament's last installment in 2014 were also supplied by manufacturers based in Sialkot — a city renowned world over for its thriving sports goods industry.
"This is an honour for us, that we are going to provide footballs for the world cup once again. We are very excited to meet this challenge," Khawaja Masood, CEO of Forward Sports, the company entrusted with the task of making footballs for the big summer tournament, told Anadolu Agency.
"Although Pakistan football team will not be participating in the forthcoming World Cup, its presence will be felt in all the matches [because of the balls]."
According to Al Jazeera, Masood's company is a contracting manufacturer of global sports apparel giant Adidas, for whom it is currently working on a large order for the World Cup.
Masood would not say how many footballs he has been asked to supply, but he did mention that his company makes approximately 700,000 footballs on a monthly basis.
Husnain Cheema, president of the Pakistan Sports Goods Association, claimed that Pakistan's share in global supply of footballs in 2018 would be a staggering 10 million.
Traditionally, Pakistani footballs used to be hand-stitched, but that changed in 2013 when Forward Sports switched to thermo bonded balls, whose panels are joined together through heat rather than stitches.
Local manufacturers believe Pakistani companies are prising away business from their Chinese counterparts with their high-quality end products.
"Huge football production business is being transferred from China to Pakistan because of the quality we are providing to the world," Ijaz Khokhar, who heads Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Al Jazeera.