KARACHI: With the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Cup set to mark the return of football action in the country after almost eight months, tournament organisers on Tuesday quashed widespread allegations that it was an event organised by one faction of the country’s football governing body.
“We’re inviting all stakeholders in Pakistan football to join hands in making the PFF Cup, which will see football being revived in the country, a huge success,” the tournament’s Sindh Local Organising Committee chairman, Ali Bahar Brohi, told reporters at a news conference here at a local restaurant.
“I would like to clarify that the PFF Cup isn’t being organised by one faction of the PFF, instead it is being held by the Lahore High Court-appointed PFF administrator retired Justice Asad Munir,” he added.
Responding to questions whether Munir had the power to conduct the tournament, Brohi said: “The LHC has empowered him. The court has given clear orders that any football activity in the country has to be conducted by Munir.
“Anyone who has an issue with the holding of this tournament should go to the courts and challenge us legally.”
Munir was appointed by the LHC as PFF administrator after the body split into two factions after months of infighting in the lead-up to its presidential elections in June.
After incumbent president Faisal Saleh Hayat went ahead with the June 30 polls, which saw him re-elected, despite a stay order from the LHC, Munir was appointed to hold free and fair elections and conduct an audit of the PFF.
World’s football regulating body FIFA, meanwhile, doesn’t approve of Munir as the PFF administrator while it has backed Hayat and given him two years to conduct elections after ratification of the PFF Constitution.
With the PFF engulfed in crisis, Brohi was asked whether holding the tournament was more important at this moment in time rather than resolving the issues surrounding the federation.
“The holding of this tournament is very important,” Brohi said. “The tournament will solve the problems afflicting local teams and players who have been suffering due to lack of football action.
“This is to save the jobs of these local players. We’ve only recently seen Habib Bank Limited (HBL) disband its football team, rendering their players and officials unemployed.”
The event kicks off from Thursday with a 16-team qualifying round which has the teams divided into four groups of four.
The top two teams from each group advance to the final round where they will join eight top-tier teams. The final round begins from February 9.
The PFF Cup is the first tournament since the National Challenge Cup in April.
Group I (Matches in Karachi): Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), Ashraf Sugar Mills (ASM), Pakistan Steel, Sindh Social Welfare Trust (SSWT).
Group II (Matches in Karachi): Gwadar Port Authority (GPA), Sindh Government Press (SGP), Police, Karachi United.
Group III (Matches in Lahore): Pakistan Railways, Saif Textiles, Falcon Company, Insaf Afghan Goods Trading Company (IAGTC).
Group IV (Matches in Islamabad): Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan Television (PTV), Bhatti United, Hazara Coal Company (HCC).
January 28: SSGC v SSWT, ASM v Pakistan Steel.
January 29: GPA v Karachi United, SGP v Police, HEC v HCC.
January 30: SSGC v Pakistan Steel, ASM v SSWT, Pakistan Railways v IAGTC, PTV v Bhatti United.
January 31: GPA v Police, Karachi United v SGP, Saif Textile v Falcon Company.
February 1: Pakistan Steel v SSWT, SSGC v ASM, HEC v Bhatti United.
February 2: Karachi United v Police, GPA v SGP, Pakistan Railways v Falcon Company, PTV v HCC.
February 3: Saif Textile v IAGTC.
February 4: Bhatti United v HEC.
February 5: Falcon Company v IAGTC, Bhatti United v HCC.
February 6: Pakistan Railways v Saif Textile.