KARACHI: Former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa on Tuesday said that they were set to finalise the “players association” which would begin country-wide protests later this month to prevent football from further damage.
“Yes, we will soon make our association final and are confident that we will be able to launch our protests later this month for safeguarding the future of national footballers,” Essa told ‘The News’ on Tuesday.
The country’s top play-maker, who led Pakistan for a decade, is expected to arrive in Karachi in the next few days to hold meetings with players and influential football officials.
“We have done a lot of work and Insha Allah we will succeed in our mission,” said Essa, who leads K-Electric in domestic events.
“Karachi is an important city and our plan is that we should begin our protests from there,” the player said.
He said it was the players’ right to form such an association. “It’s not a new thing. You can see such associations around the world. Never-ending litigation and power-tussle have destroyed our football. It has earned bad name for Pakistan as we have not been featuring in any international event since April last year,” he pointed out.
“The situation has adversely affected the fitness of the players besides inflicting a heavy financial damage on them. If no one bothers about us we have no option but to come on roads to secure our game and our careers,” said Essa, who last played for Pakistan at the 2010 SAFF Cup in Dhaka.
There have been no football activities for the last 16 months due to the legal battle between the two factions of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
FIFA last year in August sent a three-member fact-finding mission to Lahore which probed the matter and then submitted its report with FIFA.
FIFA’s Executive Committee last October gave Faisal Saleh Hayat-led PFF two years to revise the constitution and hold elections afresh. But no step has been taken in that direction because of legal issues. Lahore High Court (LHC) has recently formed a committee for holding elections of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) and PFF within three months. Pakistan failed to organise its Premier League last season and it may not be held this year as well. Because of the dispute no Pakistani club will feature in this year’s 2017 AFC Cup play-off qualifiers.
“We held a fruitful meeting in Quetta and I am in contact with the major players and want to take input of foreign-based players as well so that we could build a strong force for the cause,” Essa said.
“It will be purely a movement for the protection of players’ rights and we will fight against all odds,” the player vowed.
The controversial elections of PFA in April last year caused the problem. Following a few tough days, PFF suspended 20 members of the Arshad group.
The Arshad group convened an extraordinary Congress of PFF in Islamabad in which Faisal was suspended and secretary Ahmed Yar Lodhi was terminated.
The Congress appointed former PFF Congress member Arshad Lodhi as acting PFF president and PFF former Director Clubs and Projects Col Farasat as acting secretary.
Arshad group then occupied the PFF headquarters in Lahore. On June 29, 2015, LHC gave a stay order against the PFF elections.
Despite the stay, Faisal group held its elections on June 30 at Changla Galli in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in which Faisal was re-elected for the fourth successive term as PFF chief.
The rival group filed a contempt of court case against Faisal and his company and a hearing will be held in October.
LHC also declared the PFF June 30 elections null and void and appointed former justice Asad Muneer as PFF administrator. He is still working in that capacity. Essa said they could not waste time any more. “Any more delay in resuming football activities would be tantamount to the players’ killing,” Essa said.
In 1989 PFF faced a similar crisis but FIFA’s intervention and some sacrifices made by key stakeholders prevented the situation from deterioration.