Lahore: The sight of Pakistani children playing football is a rarity in a country in which the vast majority of sports fans follow cricket, and only cricket.

But Atletico Madrid, Spain’s third largest football club, have become the first European team to open an academy in Pakistan, a country where cricket is an obsession and whose prime minister, Imran Khan, is a former captain of the national cricket team.

Under the watchful eye of Javier Visea and Daniel Limones, dozens of youngsters take part in training.

“They always have their eyes open, they are willing to learn,” Visea, who has been teaching football skills in Lahore for several months now. “Some kids come here for new experiences, just to try. But others are already football fans.”

The 22-year-old Madrid native and his colleague Limones are optimistic that they can help the game grow in this cricket-mad land.

“We have found a lot of people that want to play football,” Limones said.

Atletico Madrid set up the academy in Pakistan after an initiative by businessman Mohammad Atta Tanseer, a Kohat Cement executive, who had tried and failed to get Atletico’s cross-town rivals Real Madrid to come to the country.