by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Although it is not yet clear when the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) will be held this season, the newly-promoted Masha United aim to make an impressive debut of the PPFL whenever it is held.
FIFA recently gave a fresh look to the PFF Normalisation Committee by replacing some individuals, including its chairman.
The Faisalabad-based club plans to bring in six African players to put a new life in the country’s top-tier league.
“We are bringing in six players from different clubs in Africa,” Masha United owner Rai Intikhab Ali told reporters here on Tuesday. “We want to field with intensity in the top-tier league of the men’s football,” said Intikhab, a Johannesburg-based businessman of Faisalabad origin.
Masha United got promotion on their second-tier league debut last season. Nasir Ismail is the head coach of the club which also has its women team currently playing in the National Women Football Championship, having also recruited four Nepali players.
Intikhab aims to give a new look to Pakistan’s football, wanting it to be promoted at the grassroots level.
“There is a lot of talent in Pakistan but the issue is that football is not being promoted at the grassroots level,” he said.
“So we are here to play our role. We have been running an academy in Faisalabad where young talent from the city is being honed through a bunch of qualified coaches,” Intikhab said.
Punjab’s veteran football personality Rana Ashraf is the right hand of Intikhab and is the key person of the project. Intikhab aims to expand the canvas of the project and wants to establish such academies in other cities of the country as well.
He wants it to work as a franchise. “Karachi is our next target as there is immense talent here,” Itikhab said. “We want to prepare players for departments and for national duty by working on them through skilled coaching staff. We also aim to bring in foreign coaches to train our players and our coaches will also learn from them,” Intikhab said.
“I had a meeting recently with Senator Dilawar Khan but the issue is that we will have to manage money by ourselves as the government is not in a position to give us anything,” he said.
Intikhab also wants a PSL type league in Pakistan. “It’s difficult but not impossible. It will need huge money. We will definitely make a big effort to have it some time in future,” Intikhab said.
He stressed that football should be promoted at the school level.
This correspondent learnt that Masha United will keep four teams, one senior and three age-group outfits, which is also the requirement of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Intikhab requested Pakistani cricketers to also help the country’s football. “Shahid Afridi Foundation is helping our men’s team and we are hopeful that other cricketers including Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Younis Khan and Wasim Akram will also contribute to Pakistan’s football development. I will meet these cricketers,” said Intikhab.
He said that the Masha United women team is staying in a decent hotel and the players had no problem.
At a time when K-Electric and Habib Bank Limited (HBL) have closed their football teams, Masha United seem to be emerging as a big source which will help players and the sport in future.