by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: With no Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) action to look forward to this year, the country’s local clubs and departments are trying to keep their football skills polished by participating in independent tournaments across Pakistan.
The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) was ordered by the Lahore High Court last to refrain from holding any events as the game continues to suffer at the hands of power struggle and internal politics within the federation.
The national team has already withdrawn from the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in India this month, and according to PAF manager Arshad Khan, the departments have to struggle the most as the players face termination of their jobs in the absence of football activities.
“It’s a tricky situation and we’re fighting to stay afloat,” Arshad told The Express Tribune. “We’re taking part in tournaments in different cities of Punjab and reached a semi-final in Faisalabad, where we lost to District Football Association Islamabad Team.”
He added, “We won a title in Tufailabad near Vihari, and now we’re getting ready for at least five other tournaments including a DG Rangers event in Karachi this month. If we don’t continue playing, our department will ask us to lay off the players. It’s better to participate in independent tournaments than wait for the PFF situation to get better.”
Arshad further said that while local tournaments may not have the same recognition as the domestic league, the organisers take better care of the players, which includes accommodation and better prize money as compared to the country’s premier league.
PAF finished second in the last PPFL edition in January this year.
Meanwhile, K-Electric manager Zabe Khan said that although the current PPFL champions are not feeling the pressure the way PAF may be, the local tournaments are important for the clubs and the departments.
Similarly, former PIA coach Shamim Khan said that the department has rested most of its players due to lack of activity.
“The bigger concern is that all of these players are being forced to waste their talent,” said Shamim. “They can only play till a certain age and then their careers will be over, so it’s bad news for everyone.”
The former official also backed alternative tournaments, saying the competitiveness will keep them busy and fit. “These local tournaments may also help the departments to pick new players for the future, so it’s a great opportunity to make some long-term plan,” added Shamim.
On the other hand, Karachi United Football Club (KUFC) is also contemplating holding a tournament that will feature the departments.
“No one can stop the departments from playing football,” said KUFC official Taha Alizai. “The team’s failure to play internationally is something we can’t help, but locally, we have to keep the game alive to the best of our abilities.”