KARACHI: Legendary English footballer Michael Owen on Wednesday inaugurated the construction of Pakistan’s first football stadium designed to meet international standards in Karachi while calling the country 'perfect destination' for the game.
The stadium is a joint initiative of Global Soccer Ventures (GSV) and the NED University of Engineering & Technology.
The event marked the beginning of the construction work on the stadium under the 10-year agreement to create the first soccer city in Pakistan.
“Pakistan is the perfect destination for football, and the passion of the young Pakistani footballers has no bounds,” Owen said while addressing the gathering attended by local students and footballers.
“I am thrilled to be part of Pakistan’s historic football transformation program, as I look forward to taking football to a whole new level,” he added.
The English footballer arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday and met with the army chief and other government functionaries in the federal capital. He is also scheduled to meet young players in Lyari, a town in Karachi which is frequently called “mini-Brazil” and the country’s football center on Thursday morning.
The football stadium in Karachi is designed to meet the Union of European Football Associations’ standards. It has been inspired by German engineering and will be first in a series of football infrastructure projects in Pakistan by GSV.
The world class football facility will also have an international standard academy.
Speaking on the occasion, NED University vice-chancellor Dr. Sarosh Hashmat Lodhi praised the initiative.
“This will let our students and other football players from the city explore much-awaited opportunities,” he said. “International interest in grooming our young talent is a great opportunity for our youth. We are delighted to have international star Michael Owen as part of this life-changing vision. We hope this stadium will be making international football stars.”
GSV group chairman Yasir Mahmood said the 10-year agreement with the Pakistani university was in line with the government’s vision to empower youth and ensure their progress.
“GSV will materialize the dreams of youth by providing them with the opportunity to make their mark globally,” he said.
GSV chief executive officer Zabe Khan maintained the aim of the project was to “identify and develop players from the grassroots” while allowing them to continue their education.
Responding to an Arab News query, he said the project also had the government backing.
“We have the support of the government from top,” he said while hoping the initiative would transform Pakistan “into the greatest football playing nation.”