War, football and peace
Narrated by Founder Gul Haider to Football for Humanity Founders Belle Tiongco & Chris Thomas.
A past tested by fire
While most children would be playing, I worked for most of my childhood. My youth was spent in hard labour. I had no dreams of my own; I toiled hard, especially for my younger siblings. But my long, honest work was justly rewarded because today, my siblings are accomplished professionals. My difficult past was not a burden because it inspired me with the vision to establish an advocacy for quality education, health and sports. My past and my successful present taught me that it is possible to attain a better life. It is possible to uplift the lives of impoverished youth, especially those who have the talent and the capability to be successful in life. From that day on, I found my voice, and I was determined to use it to call attention to injustice, as well as to inspire marginalised youth, especially those in the rural areas, to strive for a better future.
The vision becomes a reality
My vision propelled me to establish the Youth Gleam Welfare Organization (YGWO), a non-profit, non-political and non-discriminatory foundation. YGWO is dedicated to the welfare and the development of the country's youth, especially since we believe that the youth is the basic pillar of a nation. We inspire the youth to overcome difficulties by cultivating their positive values, talents, and abilities. In the future, they can make a positive contribution to the progress of their country and the well-being of their fellow citizens. YGWO stretched me beyond my limits. I went through so much hardship just to see it take shape. But now that it has taken off, I am even more determined to make it succeed, to make its young players succeed. My vision is very clear; it is to provide world-class facilities for our athletes so that we can develop them to have international-level skills as well. We are hopeful that we will be able to develop athletes who can compete on the world stage someday.
Persevering in the face of adversity As our province shares a common border with Afghanistan, our people had also been adversely affected by the Afghan war. Terrorism affected our communities, causing the elimination of almost all types of sports activities. People were afraid to watch and support sporting events, and players lost interest in their sport due to a lack of public support. While still surrounded by war and terrorism, Youth Gleam Welfare Organization started a movement called "Bring Back Sports in KP", which began organising informal street sports initiatives that got bigger and finally caught the attention of sports authorities. For example, a street league was organised in Qissa Khwani, a place that has been the victim of repeated bombing incidents and bloodshed.
Despite all the risks, we organised a professional cricket and football leagues in the province, where local talent, as well as refugee and guest teams from Afghanistan and Kashmir are welcome. These leagues were not limited to young players and even attracted national stars from Pakistan, further inspiring and energising the people of the province. For the first time in sports coverage in Pakistan, we organised live streaming of the football league on television and various social media platforms. The same league produced champions who won the Under 17 inter-provisional cup – an outstanding achievement for our team.
The dream continues
YGWO provides assistance to poor patients in collaboration with Hospitals and Medical Centres, which supply doctors and specialists who perform all kinds of surgeries for our poor patients. I look forward to establishing maternity and memorial hospitals that provide volunteer medical service to poor patients, including medicines, surgery, oncology, dermatology, ENT, orthopaedics, paediatrics, neurosurgery, and plastic surgery services.
I really hope to see Youth Gleam Welfare Organisation grow and flourish in the future. I established the organisation at a time of war and terror for the youth who were also greatly suffering, social and psychologically. Now that we have achieved peace, I am even more inspired to do so much more for the holistic development of young athletes.
This is my life's work, and seeing it succeed in the long term will be a dream come true. I also wish to acknowledge that YGWO was not built on my efforts alone. We were supported by many individuals in public administration. I believe a significant source of support is the public, the crowds and the people who showed up during our events. Their presence gave us the motivation to keep trying, to keep winning. They helped fuel our hopes and dreams.
International Collaboration After many months of sharing their stories and fiery passions, founders Chris Thomas and Gul Haider shared another dream: that is to bring international exposure to the footballers of Peshawar, who have a unique and powerful story to tell the world. Plans are underway to bring YGWO players to Manchester in collaboration with the Manchester FA, No Borders MCR and RAPAR to participate and play in the Freedom Football Project. Football is undoubtedly causing change in the world; this collaboration cuts across continents and cultures, breaking down barriers and borders.
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