The Football Visionary

by SYED YAHYA HUSSAINI Senior Sports Journalist
  • 06 Apr - 12 Apr, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Sports

Rai Intikhab Ali's Inspiring Journey to Elevate Football in Pakistan
Football is a popular and renowned sport worldwide. Unfortunately, due to political and internal conflicts, this famous sport has not been able to progress in Pakistan till now. From Karachi to Khyber, there are football enthusiasts and talented players in Pakistan, but despite the assistance of the international football organization 'FIFA', we are still empty-handed. People watch the FIFA World Cup held every four years with a heavy heart and wonder if we will ever participate in this global event. Like other sports in Pakistan, there is no shortage of individuals who have a passionate love for football. They are determined to prove themselves in this sport as organizers, and Rai Intikhab Ali is one of such individuals.

Ali's passion and love for football kept him active despite being in a foreign land. He took the initiative to promote the game of football and provide a platform for talented footballers in Faisalabad, dubbed the Manchester of Pakistan. In 2017, a time when cricket dominated all discussions after Pakistan won the ICC Champions Trophy under the leadership of wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed. Rai Intikhab Ali dreamt of making football popular in Faisalabad, moving from Johannesburg, South Africa. He organized the All Pakistan Tournament in Faisalabad without anyone's help. Teams from all over Pakistan were invited. Not only were the arrangements for their stay and play impeccable, but hefty cash prizes were also offered for every goal scored, making concerted efforts to promote the game of football in Pakistan.

Rai Intikhab Ali not only organized the All Pakistan Tournament in Faisalabad but also formed a football team named 'Masha United'. The team's selection process was conducted with regular trials, transparency was maintained, and for coaching, the services of Nasir Ismail, former assistant coach of the Pakistan football team, and Rana Arshad, a well-known coach from WAPDA, were acquired. Ali explains that the team's name, 'Masha United,' was chosen because they wanted to incorporate the name of their company, 'Masha,' while also keeping in mind the significance of 'MASHA ALLAH,' hence the name of the team.

Rai Intikhab Ali says that he formed the 'Masha United' team with good intentions and sincerity, selecting players based on their eligibility and abilities, taking every aspect into consideration. The sole aim was to empower players to excel and contribute significantly to Pakistani football.

Ali is a patriotic Pakistani. Born in Faisalabad in 1982, but soon his family moved to Hong Kong as most of his relatives were settled there. Despite being in Hong Kong, his love and passion for football led him not only to play football in the area of 'Kowloon' but also to establish a club. However, in 2012, due to business engagements, Ali relocated from Hong Kong to Johannesburg, South Africa.

Regarding his affinity and fondness for football, Ali explains that although he admires Brazilian footballers like everyone else, it's the stylish Italian footballer Roberto Baggio who tops his list. Rai Intikhab Ali is eager to do much for football in Pakistan. He has endeavored to address the tangled issues of football in Pakistan, from the grassroots to the Senate. He tried to engage in dialogue to move football matters forward in Pakistan, but unfortunately, it was all in vain. Ali laments that despite the assistance and collaboration of FIFA, football in Pakistan has not progressed. Discussions about football in Pakistan have only remained at the level of talks. The focus is on personal interests and conflicts. The government should play its role in this regard, which unfortunately as Ali sorrowfully points out, is not happening and that's why despite FIFA's assistance and cooperation, football in Pakistan has not moved forward.

Ali emphasizes the abundance of football talent in Pakistan, but instead of nurturing it, it is being wasted. The issue is mired in internal conflicts and fights. The government should play its part. Ali believes that there should be work on football in Pakistan. There should be discussions with the committee led by Haroon Malik. In the broader interest of Pakistan football, personal interests should be put aside to envision a better future. Otherwise, as Ali warns, we weren't anywhere before, and we won't be anywhere in the future.

Rai Intikhab Ali has not only formed a men's team under the name 'Masha United' but also established a women's football team. He has invited women footballers from Nepal to Pakistan and is working with zeal and determination for both male and female footballers in Pakistan. He says football is such a game that if our youth find a path in it, it will not only brighten their future but also illuminate the future of Pakistan football. Rai Intikhab Ali expresses his determination to continue his efforts for Pakistani football with a positive mindset.