Mention the name Trunkwala to anybody involved in small-sided football and you might be met with a quizzical look. Or mention the company World Group Pakistan, and people might still wonder where you are coming from.
But the Trunkwala family behind Pakistan’s World Group empire is, along with British brand Leisure Leagues, revolutionising the world of small-sided football, the most played ball sport in the world.
Little more than 18 months ago the Trunkwala family had a vision to make Pakistan a footballing world power. For a country where cricket dominates every conversation, and where even the Pakistan national football team were banned from playing in competitions, this seemed an unlikely, if not impossible, task.
But perseverance pays off. Realising they couldn’t do this alone, they entered into a partnership with British brand Leisure Leagues, already the UK’s largest provider of small-sided football, and together the two organisations began making waves in the football world.
The timing was also right. Leisure Leagues, with its domination of the UK market secure in small-sided football, was looking to expand internationally, and this coincided perfectly with the Trunkwala’s desire to spread the word that Pakistan football was no longer going to be a backwater sport in Pakistan but was going to go mainstream.
Together, both World Group and Leisure Leagues devised a strategy to bring small-sided football into the mainstream not only in Pakistan but across the world, creating the world’s first bona fide Federation for small-sided football, with a new phrase coined – “socca”- and an inaugural World Cup staged in September 2018 in Lisbon, right outside the President’s office on the Main Square.
The Pakistan operation brought financial security to the project and meant that the pace of expansion could be quickened. The British brand brought their know-how and expansive worldwide contact database, particularly in the European market, and began involving key European small-sided operators into the project.
The first World Cup in Lisbon was spectacular, with Germany winning an event watched by over 23 million people, in 32 different countries.
The event got even bigger, with World Group and Leisure Leagues jointly building a stadium on the beach in Crete and inviting 40 nations to take part in the 6-a-side version of football’s World Cup. This time over 90 million worldwide viewers watched, and sponsors began lining up to get a piece of the action.
Lord Shahzad Ali, the UK based Pakistani who first had the vision to get in touch with Leisure Leagues, handed the World Cup trophy to Russia, this years’ winning team, whilst Vice President Shahzeb Trunkwala was guest of honour at the Opening Ceremony.
Leisure Leagues spokesman Tom Nash explained: “it might be easy for us the UK to have a vision about a 6-a-side World Cup, because this type of football is synonymous with the UK, and it’s a fairly easy promotion. But you have to give enormous credit to Lord Ali and Shahzeb Trunkwala for their vision in partnering with us on this journey of a lifetime which already, in the space of 18 months, created not only unbelievable memories for those involved but the biggest small-sided football events the world has ever seen, and that simply is no exaggeration.”
Together the organisations, who have achieved so much in such a short space of time, move onto the next phase of their project as Nash explained:“We’ve done the cherry on the top, the World Cup, and we’re going to keep that going. Next year it will probably be in Mexico. But now we have to make sure that we develop the grassroots sport, too. Small-sided football is the most played ball sport anywhere in the world. But it’s not so organised yet. We’ve got to make sure now that we get a proper organisation in every country around the world, so that we create a sustainable base for the future and see this individual, great sport, completely separate from 11-a-side football, as a sport in its own right and ready for inclusion in the next Olympic Games.”
And who is to say that won’t happen? A couple of years ago to think that Pakistan would be such an integral part of a worldwide football phenomenon might have been unthinkable. Now it is accepted. History will show that many people have played a part in starting this phenomenon of bringing this casual game of 6-a-side into the competitive, mainstream arena. And history will eventually show the crucial part that the Trunkwala family in Pakistan played in it.Back to Blog