HomeSportsPakistani footballer Abdullah Shah discusses the challenges and growth of football in...

Pakistani footballer Abdullah Shah discusses the challenges and growth of football in Pakistan |


Abdullah Shah, a promising young centre-back from Pakistan, spoke about his journey in football in an exclusive interview with

Having started his youth career with Mehran FC in 2013, Shah quickly caught the attention of scouts and earned a place in the Islamabad U-14 team for the National Youth Championship.

His breakthrough came in 2022 when, aged just 21, he became the youngest Pakistani player to join a foreign league, signing for Maldives second division club Dhivehi Seaphainge.

He subsequently received a call-up to the Pakistan national team in August 2022, culminating in his debut against Nepal later that year.

“After returning from the Maldives, I received a call from the Pakistan national football team and made my debut against Nepal. Although I played well, we lost the match,” Shah said.

Apart from his football interests, Shah was also interested in futsal, notably taking part in Neymar Jr.’s fifth tournament in Brazil with Chitral Futsal Club Highlanders FC in 2017, where he had the privilege of meeting Neymar in person.

“I went to Neymar’s junior league in Brazil where I met Neymar. It was a big moment for me to meet Neymar and watch him play in his own tournament,” Shah said.

The young centre-back is currently playing for Abu Muslim in the Afghanistan Champions League and remains optimistic about the future of his national team despite his current absence from the squad.

“I believe in Allah and believe that He is the best planner. Life has its ups and downs and I am working hard hoping to return to the national team if God so wishes. My family has been very supportive of me as have my coaches and relatives. When Pakistan was banned, many boys left football due to financial and family issues. It was a tough time for me and I was hesitant about continuing. However, my family encouraged me to persevere and not give up on my chosen path,” he said.
Highlighting the challenges facing Pakistani football, Shah stressed the need for a robust national league system to sustain the growth of the sport and provide consistent opportunities to players.

“The main problem in Pakistan is the lack of a proper league. For the last three years, our coaches have been stressing that the national team cannot be formed through three-day trials. We need a regular league competition. Our players like Isa Suliman and others play in leagues abroad and return when needed. The lack of a league means fewer opportunities for players to connect with the national team,” he said.

“In Afghanistan, I played 11 competitive matches in a month, which kept us in good shape. Regular competitions ensure that those who perform well are naturally considered for the national team. There have been attempts to start a league in Pakistan, and we as players support any initiative. We need professional leagues and competitive matches every week for three to four months,” he added.

In 2023, the Pakistan men’s national football team made history by reaching the second round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, beating Cambodia 1-0 in Islamabad.
However, in the second round they had to face strong opponents such as Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Jordan, losing all six matches and finishing bottom of Group G.
“International matches against teams like Saudi Arabia and Jordan showed a huge gap between our level and theirs. No one plays competitive matches, only trains. If you look at Afghanistan, despite the situation in the country, they have organized leagues, attracting players from different countries, including Pakistan.

akistan needs to resolve their conflicts so that players do not suffer due to lack of matches and financial support. As players, we need leagues and competitive matches,” Shah said.

The 23-year-old expressed his belief in the potential of football in Pakistan, urging aspiring young athletes to persevere, combine their studies with their football career and take advantage of opportunities that come their way.

“Before 2020, I would have probably said no to young people who wanted to play football in Pakistan, but since then the sport has grown tremendously. The number of fans and spectators has increased significantly. With better facilities and sponsors, there is a lot of potential for young people to join if the leagues happen and the national team remains stable without any bans,” he said.

“There are times when you want to quit football, especially when friends and peers leave the sport. However, they should not give up. It is difficult, but they must combine studies with football,” he concluded.

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