Legendary sports writer, journalist, statistician, enthusiast, promoter, and PFF Media Manager, Syed Akber Ali Wahidi was found dead in his hotel room in Faisalabad this morning on Monday, 25 April 2011 at 9am. He was 53 years old and the cause of his death was declared as cardiac arrest suffered during his sleep.
The late Wahidi was in Faisalabad to cover the final games of the 21st NBP National Football Challenge Cup 2011 on special invite of tournament organiser Rai Saif ur Rehman Bhatti. He had just enjoyed the nail-biting semi-final between KRL and Army at Bohranwali Ground on 24 April 2011 and was in good spirits. But his passing away just 8 hours after the end of the game in his hotel room has broken many hearts across Pakistan.
His body will be shifted by air from Faisalabad to his native city of Karachi for burial later today. He leaves behind a widow, young son as mourners.
Wahidi was famed for his sharp memory and enthusiasm for compiling statistics, records, history, and trivia related to both football and field hockey. He was often called the ‘Walking Encyclopedia of Football’. So much was his knowledge about the beautiful game, that even the football authorities around the world had to stand up and notice his remarkable memory and enthusiasm for the game.
In 2003 he achieved considerable fame when he wrote to FIFA and asked them to correct their record books for fastest goals scored from kick-off in a FIFA World Cup match. He pointed out that Václav Mašek of Czechoslovakia should be in second place for fastest goalscorer after he scored just 16 seconds from kick-off against Mexico at the 1962 World Cup, rather than FIFA's then second-placed record holder Bryan Robson of England who scored after 27 seconds against France at the 1982 World Cup. The fastest goal scored was by Turkey's legendary captain Hakan ?ükür after just 11 seconds against hosts South Korea in 3rd/4th place play-off at 2002 World Cup.
FIFA was surprised at this information and immediately acknowledged their mistake and sent Akber Wahidi an honorary letter thanking for his contribution and knowledge. In 2010, he was sent a special ticket by FIFA to vist and cover a match in the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa on FIFA's own expenses. He stated later that visiting and watching a FIFA World Cup game inside a stadium live was his ‘dream come true’.
Born on 7 August 1957, the late Wahidi completed his BA in Civil Engineering from Karachi's renowned NED University of Engineering & Technology, but decided not to pursue a career in Civil Engineering and instead focused on writing about his one true love: football.
From 1974, he was involved in football and sports journalism and wrote fluently in both Urdu and English. He first attained fame as a writer for Urdu magazine 'Khel ki Dunya' that was owned by late sports journalist and Wahidi's mentor Alauddin Ghauri. He went on to interview and profile various football players and teams across Karachi and Pakistan, and showed immense dedication to his passion that won him many fans across country's football fraternity and sports journalism circles.
In 1992, he became affiliated with the National Football Championship which was sponsored by Lifebuoy Soap for the first time in Pakistan’s football history. As media in-charge for the tournament, the man’s unprecedented coverage of the event brought the national media to take strong notice of almost every game and every result that was witnessed throughout country.
Eventually, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) took notice of Wahidi's tremendous knowledge, writing skills, and experience and made him Media Manager in 2004. This was a post he kept with full honour and committment until his shocking demise.
A simple man, he did not let his fame as a sports journalist affect his humbleness and modesty throughout his life. He was offered a better pay to become Media Manager of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) many times but he flatly refused to give up his love and loyalty towards football.
He also won many admirers across the South Asian region with many sports journalists from Nepal, India and Bangladesh regarding him as one of their own. Wahidi was also Executive Editor of the now defunct Karachi-based Urdu-language football gazette 'Monthly Football Magazine' where he worked with his close friend and protégé Riaz Ahmed
He also had a very close and personal friendship with footballpakistan.com (FPDC) since 2001. He got in touch with a young Malik Riaz Hai Naveed and supported the fellow's dream of giving Pakistani football a voice on the internet which would evolve into FPDC in 2003.
His death has come as a big blow for football in Pakistan and sports journalism in particular. His enthusiasm, knowledge, and eloquence will not doubt be impossible to match.
PFF officials have also expressed immense sadness and shock at Wahidi’s sudden demise.
May the departed hero of Pakistani football rest in peace, and may the grieving family have the patience and resolve to overcome the passing away of their beloved one.
This report was compiled by footballpakistan.com's Chief Editor Ali Ahsan with files from sports journalist Riaz Ahmed.