The country has lost millions
of dollar worth of export orders and the image as the maker of World
By SYED M. ASLAM
June 17 - 23, 2002
Never mind the fact that Pakistani squad does not
make up the 32 teams fighting it out for the FIFA World Cup football
play down. Forget also that the game receives the step motherly
treatment from the policy makers of the country. And yet the FIFA
World Cup frenzy has hit the sports lovers across the country.
Termed the biggest sports event ever, the World Cup
2002 is held in Asia for the first time ever, jointly hosted by Japan
and South Korea. Japan is expected to room and board some 440,000
football enthusiasts to view the game while South Korea has deployed
an unprecedented police force of an almost equal number of policemen.
The defending champion France hit the dust in its
very first group match against rookies Senegal, a first time qualifier
which shined to make it for the second round. Routed also was
Argentina, a former World Cup champion and also a match. Sixteen teams
made it to the final including favourite Brazil and mavericks Senegal,
the US, Japan, South Korea, the co-hosts of the event.
Like elsewhere, the World Cup event also seem to
make a good sales pitch, and copy, here in Pakistan. A progressive car
manufacturer, foreign electronics giants marketing its imported home
appliances into the country, a four-star hotel and a number of other
entrepreneurs have found the World Cup a handy slogan to sell their
products and services. Though the volume and value of such
World-Cup-theme-backed marketing promotions make up only fraction of
the total advertisement what is surprising is the fact that since the
last event in 1998, the number of such campaigns have increased this
Korean giants Samsung and LG are trying to increase
their sales in the country by pitching large and regular screen
televisions sets in the country to lure sports enthusiasts.
International hotel chain Sheraton has installed large screen
televisions in the restaurants, lobbies and corridors as well as
offering free welcome drinks to attract the walk-in crowd. The hotel
attracted the international media attention on May 8 with the suicide
bombing killing French naval workers took place right on its very
door. The drying up foreign traffic and eviction of foreigners called
by their respective governments due to highly tense military standoff
between nuclear powers of India and Pakistan have hurt the hotel
business profoundly and the promotion is hoped to neutralize at least
some of the loss.
Despite lack of official as well as unofficial
recognition and support football mania has seemed to move the
Pakistanis albeit not so strongly as in the rest of the world.
However, people are watching the matches live on their television sets
and the outcomes are discussed out in public about the merits or
otherwise of a certain team and their scoring points. People are in
touch with day-to-day progress of the game and in the absence of
national participation have their own favourites which differ from
person to person.
Besides the live coverage, the recorded reruns of
the matches are also being telecast for the convenience of those who
were unable to watch a particular countdown for whatever reasons. The
star performance of rookie Senegal and its entry into the second round
have provided many with a favourite, as Senegal is the only Muslim
brethren fighting it all out to lift the coveted trophy.
The routing of France and Argentina has left the
field wide open for new entrants and aspirants like Senegal, Japan,
South Korea, and the US. However, everyone is aware of the presence of
such giants as Brazil, Germany and England and also Spain which has
performed strongly being the only team besides Brazil to win all the
three matches to score 9 points.
The previous World Cups helped the Pakistani sports
goods industry a real boost, not as much export earnings but rather in
the jubilant feeling that the footballs used in the events were made
in Pakistan. This year, however, the event organizers have opted for a
new provider, Nigeria, which has deprived Sialkot-based
export-oriented sports goods industry not only a good amount of
foreign exchange but also a good deal of goodwill.
Many observers feel that the decision to buy
footballs from Nigeria instead of Pakistan is driven more by finance
than by politics. There are also those who seem to disagree and say
that it is just the opposite saying that the change of heart is in
fact a move to pressure the exports-oriented sports goods about the
alleged child labour. Whatever, the case may be the country has lost
millions of dollar worth of export orders and the image as the maker
of World Cup footballs.
It is not possible to calculate the exact impact of
the financial loss as repeated attempts and fax failed to get any
response from the chairman of Pakistan Sports Goods Manufacturers and
Exporters Association, Arif Mohammad Shaikh. If trends are any
indications, one thing, however, remains certain — the World Cup
football frenzy will increase in years to come and so would be their
financial, social and cultural impact.