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3rd Wc-Icon-4Although Pakistan may not qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil which begins on June 12, it will still make a major appearance there – Pakistan will be supplying the official footballs that will be used at the tournament. Dubbed the ‘Brazuca’, over 3,000 of these footballs are expected to be used in the eight Brazilian cities hosting the tournament.

The Brazucas have been made in Sialkot – Pakistan’s sporting goods capital. The city has been a centre of excellence in manufacturing sporting goods and has supplied many global tournaments with key equipment. Although the appearance of the Brazucas in Brazil is a good reason to celebrate, this is not the first time that Sialkot is supplying footballs at the FIFA World Cup. In fact, Sialkot’s sporting good outlets have been contract manufacturers for a host of international sporting companies including Adidas (which has been regularly tasked with supplying footballs to FIFA), Nike and Slazenger.

While Pakistan has had a long standing record of supplying first class footballs at the FIFA World Cup, it steadily lost ground in the early 2000s as deteriorating security, coupled with concerns about use of child labour and lack of industry safety standards, saw market share erode from 80% to 13%. Regional players including China, Indonesia and Vietnam stepped in to fill the supply gap in the global market.

Sialkot’s sporting establishments have come a long way since then, rooting out bad practices and effectively tackling underage labour practices. This, coupled with the lowest manufacturing costs in the world, in addition to excellence in making all types of footballs, including hand stitched, machine made and thermo-bonded, has seen the return of foreign buyers.

All this means that Pakistan will once again be making its mark on the global football scene. Not bad for a country that sits 159th in the global football rankings.

– Tariq Ziad Khan
First published in the ADBUZZZZ Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 1, 2014.