by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Pakistan’s star footballer Kaleemulla has urged the Prime Minister Imran Khan to save the country’s football.
“Football is going down and down. Only Prime Minister Imran Khan can save it. He should take interest in the matter,” Kaleem told ‘The News’ in an interview from his hometown Chaman.
“Imran has been a great sportsman and knows the value of sports. He can resolve the issue,” said Kaleem.
“As former Pakistan captain, it is my duty to convey my message to the PM. I hope he will take some action to save our careers,” Kaleem said.
“Football has been suffering in Pakistan for long. The crisis has damaged the careers of not only senior players but the country has also stopped producing young players. Junior players were deprived of international exposure during the last five years because of the legal wrangling,” said Kaleem.
Because of legal and other issues, there have been few football competitions for the last five years. In order to resolve the issues, FIFA appointed a Normalisation Committee in September 2019, giving it the mandate to hold the elections of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) by June 2020. But the committee failed to meet the mandate. FIFA extended its mandate till the end of this year.
Recently the country’s major stakeholders met the IPC minister Dr Fehmida Mirza in Islamabad who agreed to write another letter to FIFA. In August, on the complaints of the stakeholders against the NC, the IPC ministry had written to FIFA that the NC had deviated from its mandate. The world body had asked the government to furnish evidence to substantiate its claims.
Kaleem advised the NC to remain neutral. “The NC should take neutral stance which is the only solution,” he said.
“Because of this crisis, the football fraternity has been divided into various groups. All stakeholders should respect each other as no one from outside will come. They will run the country’s football eventually,” he said.
Kaleem has played in foreign leagues in Kyrgyzstan, the US, Russia, Turkey and Iraq. He is in negotiation with a Qatari club these days.
“Yes, I have been in talks with a Qatari club and there is every chance that I will be part of Qatar’s league for 2021 season,” Kaleem said.
Kaleem had been playing in Iraq before he had to leave the country due to Covid-19 and security issues.
After serving KRL for a few years, Kaleem joined K-Electric but the department abolished its team recently.
He is not playing in the current National Challenge Cup at Lahore but he is focusing on his fitness with regular training. “I am training here at Chaman regularly to maintain the fitness level,” Kaleem said.