Portugal’s SL Benfica, Pakistan Football League team up to boost Pak sports economy

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ISLAMABAD, ):Portugal's national football club SL Benfica has announced partnership with the Pakistan Football League (PFL) Pearl Project to develop professional football and boost the sports economy in Pakistan.

SL Benfica, as the official partner of PFL, a pioneering initiative to develop professional football in Pakistan and stimulate the country’s football economy, will impart technical expertise to coaches and players, significantly advancing football in the region. With support from government officials, this initiative aims to inspire a new generation of footballers and fans in the region.

Benfica representatives are currently in Pakistan for prominent events in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi. SL Benfica stated that this partnership places the club at the forefront of football expansion in a nation with a population of approximately 250 million.

They attended the formal launch of PFL in Lahore on 4th June – attended by the likes of Michael Owen, Emile Heskey, Pascal Chimbonda and Raúl Rodríguez. The global delegation held meetings with the senior government ministers who offered full support to the football initiative.

“June marks the launch of the Pakistan Football League, a project with the potential of 250 million inhabitants committed to launching a football league. Benfica has been invited to present itself as the league’s technical partner to support its teams, coaches and players. As leaders in identifying and developing players, we had to accept this challenge. This project is another historic moment for Benfica, as we will be collaborating with an international league for the first time”, said Miguel Reis, SL Benfica’s Operations Coordinator for Global Expansion.

“For Benfica, this represents another great project with a huge responsibility, igniting a passion for sport in children and guiding them towards clubs to commence playing in a more structured and professional manner. Our goal is to facilitate the simultaneous development of young athletes and coaches, fundamentally transforming the football landscape in the country.

Our distinct methodological approach will be harnessed for the benefit of the league and the clubs, with Benfica potentially becoming the driving force in shaping the future of football in Pakistan. We are also excited about the upcoming global campaign ‘One Ball One Smile’, which will bring smiles to the faces of countless children by providing them with footballs. This initiative will not only empower them to play football in their communities but will also nurture the grassroots of football worldwide”, explained Davide Gomes, technical coordinator for international projects at SL Benfica.

This partnership not only recognizes Benfica’s global reach and expertise but also marks a significant milestone in the evolution of football in Pakistan. With SL Benfica’s support, the Pakistan Football League aims to inspire a new generation of footballers and fans, taking the game to new heights in the region. The Portuguese club will be the central incubator of the league and the entity that will ensure that standards in football development are maintained.

Benfica will lay the foundations for success by training local coaching staff and offering annual training masterclasses in Lisbon for local players, with the possibility of joining the academy if they prove to be exceptional talents.

As part of this collaboration, Benfica has organized a special exhibition to showcase the club’s history, featuring selected items from the Benfica Museum. This exhibition is being displayed during the launch events, underlining the club’s commitment to fostering a deep connection with Pakistan’s growing football community.

“I’m proud to be Pakistan’s Global Football Ambassador. I visited Pakistan two years ago and was impressed by the passion and interest people have in football here. I am very excited about the future and am fully available to contribute to the development of football in Pakistan”, said Michael Owen during the PFL launch event.

“We are here to discover the best talent. Football has millions of fans around the world, and we want to provide opportunities for our players to showcase their talent. From the northern areas of Pakistan, Chaman and Karachi, there is raw talent everywhere. I’m grateful to the international delegations who came here. Together with the international delegates and world football stars involved, we will work out strategies to improve football”, said Ahmar Kanwar, president and CEO of PFL.

“Football players from Argentina, the USA, Portugal and other countries came here. I thank all the visiting delegations. A galaxy of stars has descended on Pakistan. These football stars will guide our young people through the sport. Not everyone becomes a Ronaldo or a big star, but football teaches you discipline and how to lead a disciplined life. Football has become a part of my life, and soon we will be taking the game to all districts of Pakistan. Cricket is the most watched sport on TV in Pakistan, while football is the most played”, claimed Farhan Junejo, Chairman of the PFL.