KARACHI: Pakistan doesn’t have representation in the form of a team of soccer players participating in FIFA World Cup 2022, set to kick off from Sunday. However, millions of Pakistani fans may take comfort in the fact that the country’s presence can still be felt in Qatar through Pakistan-made flags and footballs, as well as soldiers taking part in the security arrangements for the mega event.
Qatar is hosting the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup from November 20 to December 18, 2022, across eight venues in the Gulf country. Thirty-two teams, divided into eight groups of four teams each, will vie for the prestigious trophy.
Pakistan has no shortage of football buffs who follow various soccer leagues around the world and are passionate about the sport. The South Asian nation does not have a team strong enough to compete with some of the best international sides at the World Cup, though that doesn’t mean it is completely absent from the World Cup in Qatar.
“In Qatar, the football World Cup is taking place and our team is not present but we are very much involved in the event,” Shaikh Nisar Ahmed Parchamwala, CEO of VIP Flags, a major flag producer in Pakistan, told Arab News.
“[Pakistan is present] in the sense that the footballs being used are ours [Made in Pakistan], the security being provided is by our army personnel, and now our flags are going [to Qatar as well],” Parchamwala said.
Parchamwala, who is making flags since 1985 for Pakistan’s independence day celebrations that take place in August each year, said his company had shipped over 50,000 flags of various sizes which would be used by football fans in Qatar.
“We have shipped a container load of more than 50,000 flags so far and are working to meet the local demand for the event,” he said. “FIFA World Cup has created a big demand for flags of various countries.”
He added the flags of Argentina, Brazil and Portugal were specifically in high demand.
“Football craze persists all over Pakistan but in Balochistan, in Karachi and Punjab, it is always a great deal more,” he said. “Here, the demand for thousands of flags exists and flags are made and people buy [them].”
Asad Ali, an ardent football fan who also plays the sport, said the mega event gives him a chance to see the performance of his favorite teams.
“When the World Cup event arrives, we make special preparations in our areas,” he said. “We also make and buy flags to tease one another because we support one team and other fans support another team. We enjoy watching the World Cup together.”
Ali said while buying the Argentinian flag that he was supporting the South American team in the World Cup.
“Lionel Messi is my favorite player,” he added.
“Al Rihla” soccer balls, which will be used by renowned players from across the world, have also been produced in Pakistan by a globally renowned sportswear company, Adidas, that placed the order with a Sialkot-based company, Forward Sports.
According to FIFA, their design is inspired by the culture, architecture, iconic boats and flag of Qatar.
“It is a proud moment for Pakistan that a product which will be the focus of the mega event is made in Pakistan,” Wahub Jahangir, senior vice president of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News.
“It highlights Pakistan’s soft and positive image and shows that Pakistan is a capable country that can make high tech products of global standards despite our economic and political situation,” he added.
Members of Pakistan’s armed forces will also be present at the tournament to provide security. Last month, the government sent a security contingent to Qatar after the federal cabinet endorsed an agreement with the Arab state in August.