by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: The US-based Pakistan’s footballer Kaleemullah on Sunday urged the departments and the clubs of the country to force the warring factions of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) to negotiate and resolve the conflict before it ruins the game in the country, writes Alam Zeb Safi.
“I am surprised by the silence of the departments and the clubs. They should come forward and protect the sport by pressing the conflicting factions to end the dispute for the sake of the game. It is about the bread and butter of the players,” Kaleem told ‘The News’.
“The stakeholders should highlight the issue through media,” said the striker, who has been playing a major role in Pakistan’s victories in international circuit for several years.
Kaleem played the last season for the US professional club Sacramento Republic FC, which plays in the United Soccer League (USL), the division-III of the professional league of America.
FIFA has given its verdict about the issue which has crippled football for the last eight months.
The 23-year-old Kaleem warned if the matter was not settled soon, parents would not allow their children to play football. “I don’t think parents would allow their kids to opt for football if the crisis did not come to an end soon,” the Chaman-born player said.
He said the departments would also disband their teams if the dispute got prolonged.
“The departments would say why they should keep players when there is no future of the game,” Kaleem pointed out.
“Everyone was happy during the last one decade. The game was progressing. The players had started earning places in foreign leagues,” he said. “Had the last few months not been wasted due to the conflict more footballers could have joined foreign leagues,” said Kaleem, who has also played for Kyrgyzstan’s top club Dordoi Bishkek.
“Pakistan failed to feature in various age-group AFC competitions this year. They also did not send their entry for the SAFF Cup being held in India this month. It’s really depressing,” he lamented. Kaleem is likely to sign a contract with another US club, also playing in the USL. “I am soon joining another club in the US. I have received so many offers,” said Kaleem, who is the first Pakistani footballer to be playing in America.
He said he had learnt a lot while playing in America. “It has been a fruitful experience. I have now learnt what football really is. In America players work extremely hard and are thoroughly professional,” Kaleem said.