by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: The PIA privatisation crisis has reached a point where it is now spilling over into and paralysing its peripheries as well. The embattled national airline’s football department, PIA FC, has been forced to withdraw from the ongoing Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Cup as PIA offices ceased their operations across the country.
The nine-time national champions were scheduled to take part in the second round of the PFF Cup. Instead, they will be mere spectators when the tournament resumes on February 9 in Lahore.
“We will not be going to Lahore for the PFF Cup,” the PIA manager and coach Zafar Iqbal told The Express Tribune. “It’s disheartening as we’ve been training every day, and now we won’t go.”
Iqbal could not help hide his helplessness. “We don’t know where to go and what to do, and considering the violent nature of the conflict, I don’t even know if anyone wants to hear footballers’ complaints,” he said.
Several futures on the line
But the problem is more deep-rooted and complex than it seems. Iqbal’s anxiety doesn’t stem from missing out on a single tournament. As per circulating rumours, the government plans on selling to the Mian Mansha group, who infamously wrapped up MCB’s football team following his takeover.
If something similar happens with PIA, and the new owners decide not to retain its football team, then most of the 25-man squad may have to prematurely end their football careers due to absence of any alternatives.
“If, in the future, PIA decides to close their football department, we will be asked to join in as a staff assigned at different duties according to our education,” said star striker Shakir Lashari. “We’ll have to quit football.”
The alternative jobs that they will be offered aren’t very enticing though. “Most international footballers aren’t too educated, which means they will have to become guards or take up jobs at the lower level. It’s scary.”