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'Pakistani Pele' Abdul Ghafoor dead at 71

September 07, 2012


One of the stars of the 1960s, Abdul Ghafoor, shakes hands with the chief guest before a match. —File
One of the stars of the 1960s, Abdul Ghafoor, shakes hands with the chief guest before a match. —File

KARACHI: Pakistan football legend and former captain Abdul Ghafoor (Majna) who was also known as ‘Pakistan’s Pele’ breathed his last here on Friday after protracted illness. He was 71.

While the condolence messages started to pour in almost as soon as the news of Ghafoor’s demise spread, it was noted with regret that Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) President Faisal Saleh Hayat had failed to come forward for the help of the ailing player during his hour of need.

Popularly known as ‘Majna’ which means ‘I will hit you’ in local lingo, Ghafoor was nicknamed the ‘Pakistani Pele’ during his playing days for his remarkable resemblance to the Brazilian football legend.

When the real Pele in Brazil heard about his look-alike in Pakistan who also played football, he expressed his desire to meet Ghafoor but the two never met.

Ghafoor, although he was an all-rounder, mostly played in the midfield. He was captain of the Pakistan football team for four consecutive years in the 1960s when the country had a football identity and the country’s players were in demand in the foreign clubs.

Ghafoor, a member of the famous Dhaka Mohammedan Club in the former East Pakistan, too, had many offers to play for clubs in many countries including India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and China, but he turned them down and preferred to play in his country and for his country.

Under Abdul Ghafoor’s captaincy, the Pakistan team beat the national teams of UAE and China. On the national level, he was a member of the Karachi Port Trust department team. After the fall of Dhaka, several players from Lyari district in Karachi were taken on by Dhaka Mohammedan on Ghafoor’s recommendation.

Six years ago the football authorities in Bangladesh contacted him again to suggest some players from Pakistan to play in their league. Unfortunately, their letter never reached Abdul Ghafoor as it was sent to the PFF because the Bangladeshis believed that a player of such great caliber as Ghafoor would be running the affairs of football in Pakistan. The PFF, instead of forwarding the letter to Ghafoor, sent its own team of boys to Bangladesh.

Five years ago, he suffered a brain hemorrhage and had been paralysed ever since. When his treatment costs became unbearable for his family, his son Abdul Ghani quietly spread the word that they would appreciate some financial help.

“I cannot tell my father about this as he is a very proud man who will die from embarrassment on learning that we are willing to accept charity on his behalf. But he is bedridden and his pension cannot cover his medical expenses when just one pill costs Rs 120,” his son had said soon after Sindh Sports Minister Dr Mohammad Ali announced help for him on the Sindh Assembly floor in January this year.

President PFF, Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat in his condolence message said: “I was deeply saddened by the death of Pakistani Pele. This must be very difficult for all football lovers and players. Abdul Ghafoor was a kind person who will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

“I will remember his contribution for the development of football in Pakistan. The loss to football is irreparable, and it will be very difficult to fill the vacuum created by the passing away of such a great soccer star of Pakistan at this moment. He will remain in my thoughts and my prayers.”