Bilal Mumtaz, a visionary entrepreneur with an unwavering passion for the beautiful game, is gearing up to host the ‘Shuhada-e-Chitral Premier Football League 2023.’ This isn't just a tournament; it's a celebration of unity, resilience, and the boundless spirit of football.
33-year-old Bilal is not your average entrepreneur. While he co-founded Pakistan's first online pharmacy, Sehat, and navigated the digital health industry with finesse, he's also a die-hard football aficionado. Born into the renowned Fazal Din Family, a name synonymous with healthcare industry insights, Bilal's ability to foster key partnerships and drive brand growth is nothing short of inspiring. However, his true calling transcends the boardroom. He has dedicated his time and resources to nurturing grassroots football in the stunning landscape of Chitral.
Nestled amid the breathtaking Hindu Kush mountains in northwest Pakistan, Chitral isn't just known for its picturesque landscapes; it boasts a rich cultural heritage and an insatiable love for football.
Bilal's love for the game first ignited during his inaugural trip to Chitral in 2011. It was here that he organized football camps for the Langlands School and College, along with the Army Corps Public School. Over the years, his commitment to charity work became entwined with his passion for football.
This synergy bore fruit, culminating in the first-ever floodlit football match in 2019, a historic moment that made national headlines
“I started watching football at the age of 14 and got hooked on to it. I used to follow games across the most prominent leagues, and treated the FIFA World Cup – and still do – as a sacred event,” he says. “I had the privilege of playing intramurals and matches against other schools. I even made the high school team in my sophomore year which took us to New Delhi for the SAISA (South Asian International Schools Association) Football convention. My school was absolutely crazy about football, but sadly I stopped playing when I went to university and took up squash instead. However, I always knew that football would play a huge role in my life despite pragmatically never aspiring to be a professional footballer. There was a calling for me to develop the most popular sport in the world back in Pakistan – and Chitral was just the place to start.”
In 2021, Bilal assumed the role of Team Principal of the District Football Association Chitral (DFA Chitral). Under his guidance, the DFA Chitral Team, featuring seven of his trainees, clinched victory in the KPK-Balochistan Football Championships, sponsored by Ufone. His dedication to nurturing local talent and securing vital sponsorships led to the birth of the Chitral Premier League, an event now receiving unwavering support from corporate giants and government agencies.
In mid-2020, tragedy struck Bilal’s family with the loss of Nadeem Ahmed Mumtaz, his beloved father, to Covid. In memory of his father, Bilal initiated the Nadeem Ahmed Mumtaz (NAM) Memorial Super Cup in 2021, and it has thrived ever since.
The 2023 edition, expanded to include ten teams, showcased the region's fervor for football, with standout success stories like Zia-us-Salam, an alumnus of Bilal's football camps, who went on to represent Pakistan's national football team.
This year, a new tournament is born, the ‘Shuhada-e-Chitral Premier Football League,’ dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of a recent Taliban attack in Chitral. Bilal's commitment to the region's youth and his undying love for football shine through this heartfelt tribute.
The tournament features 12 local teams, four district teams, and four govt agency teams, and kicked off on October 11, 2023, promising an exhilarating climax on October 20, 2023. The opening ceremony was graced by the AC Chitral, DC Lower Chitral, DSO Lower Chitral, and commandant Chitral Scouts amidst much fanfare.
Sehat and Ailaaj, two prominent health tech startups, spearheaded by Bilal and his family, have been instrumental in conducting CSR activities in Chitral since 2017, including football, female health, and community development initiatives.
The ‘Shuhada-e-Chitral Premier Football League 2023’ is more than just a tournament; it's a testament to the dedication of Bilal and his team to promote football at the grassroots level while honoring the heroes of Chitral. As the games unfold, the world watches in anticipation, eager to see who will emerge as the champion in this captivating football extravaganza.
“It’s been the highlight of my travels to many different places around the world, to be frank,” the young entrepreneur states. “Witnessing such a beautiful mountainous region in your own backyard while changing the lives of many people, especially the youth, feels monumental in and of itself. Chitral is arguably the most football crazy region in Pakistan, with 1 club per approximately 10,000 people according to the latest FIFA statistics. Football isn’t just a past time in Chitral – it transcends communities as a tool for uniting people. The restaurant owner, local musician, and pedestrian down the street are just a few examples of people who participate in tournaments as footballers for their community clubs. The altitude of Chitral contributes to their fitness to be able to play at high intensity tournaments despite not being professional athletes.”
In the young entrepreneur, Chitral has found a champion for its football dreams, and the ‘Shuhada-e-Chitral Premier Football League 2023’ stands as a symbol of his unwavering commitment to this beautiful region and the sport that unites its people.
It's a story of passion, dedication, and the transformative power of the beautiful game.