KARACHI: In a bid to save Pakistan’s football from further damage national footballers on Friday formally launched their “players association” and held a protest demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club.
A large number of players, both former and current internationals, were part of the protest.
They carried banners and placards bearing different messages to attract the attraction of the authorities towards the ruin of the country’s football.
There has been no football activity on the national level for the last one and a half years because of a conflict between FIFA-recognised Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) and its defected wing, which includes former employees of the PFF and former congress members.
Former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa led the protest and announced formal launch of the “players association” inside Karachi Press Club.
Essa said that the ongoing conflict had forced them to form an association which would struggle for safeguarding the interests of the players.
He said that it was just the beginning and the association would be streamlined soon.
He said that soon its online membership window would be opened to enable the interested players to become part of it.
He said there were a lot of problems on the road towards forming the association but it was necessary in the wake of the football turmoil.
“Precious time of the players has been wasted,” said Essa, who leads K-Electric at the domestic level.
He claimed that those players were also with him who were under pressure from some quarters and so could not speak out.
Essa said if FIFA imposed sanctions on Pakistan it would add to the misery of the players. “Sanctions would be catastrophic. We want resumption of football at any cost. It’s our bread and butter,” Essa said.
FIFA executive committee has given two years to Faisal Saleh Hayat-led PFF with the advice that it revise its constitution and hold fresh PFF elections by September 2017. But nothing has been done in that direction because of the legal issues as several cases are pending in the Lahore High Court.
Essa rubbished rumours that he was favouring Faisal group. “It’s untrue. We took the step to form the association purely for the welfare of the players who have suffered a lot because of the issue,” Essa said.
He said for around a decade football grew constantly but the conflict damaged it so much that now the authorities would have to take a fresh start.
He said their next step would be to hold protest demonstrations after Eid-ul-Azha in front of the Parliament House in Islamabad and Supreme Court of Pakistan.
“The players from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab will be part of that phase,” Essa said.
He also revealed that Pakistan’s top player Kaleemullah, playing in the United States, Denmark-based Hasan Bashir and international goalie Saqib Hanif, playing in the Maldives league, also backed the association.
“Besides prominent international players from Karachi, former Pakistan captain Haroon Yousuf, former international Adeel Ahmed, international Mohammad Qasim, former international striker Gohar Zaman and so many others are supporting this association,” Essa said.
Essa was accompanied by former K-Electric sports head Zabe Khan, international players Aurangzeb, Aziz Baloch, Gulzar, Akbar Ali, Shabbir, Farooq Shah, Mohammad Waseem, Jalil Ahmed and Shakir.
As many as 17 players present during the protest were those who have represented Pakistan in international circuit at the youth level.
During the demonstration the players chanted slogans, saying it was astonishing that the government was silent over the halt of football activities. They requested the authorities concerned to revive Habib Bank Limited’s (HBL) football team.
The protesters also demanded that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah order all departments to form their junior football teams. Many of the players were wearing national blazers. They also played football on the road.