Raising their voice: Footballers gathering in Karachi for protest [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Disheartened national football players are set to take to the streets and stage a demonstration on Friday afternoon to highlight the plight of the sport in Pakistan. Almost two years have gone by since the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has been unable to hold any local or international tournaments.

Currently, Pakistan’s FIFA ranking has dropped down to 194th place, while the national team had last participated in an international match in March 2015.

However, the biggest loss has been that of the junior teams — ranging from U13 to U19 — who have not participated in any Asian Football Confederation (AFC) events.

The PFF remains a hotbed of controversy since 2015, with the Lahore High Court appointing an administrator to run the affairs of the sport and FIFA siding with Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, who had been holding the PFF president’s post since 2003.

“We’ll be marching in protest,” former national captain and K-Electric player Essa Khan, who will spearhead the protest, told The Express Tribune. “Our route will commence from Art Chowk in Lyari and will end at the Karachi Press Club. It’s about how almost two years have gone to waste and none of our players got to play football at the national level.”

Earlier this year, Pakistan Steel Mills and Habib Bank Limited had disbanded their football teams due to the absence of the Pakistan Premier Football League.

Discussing the details of the expected march, Essa said, “We’ve been in contact with the AFC and have informed them about our movement. We’re hoping to have at least a thousand players from all over the country in the march and demonstration.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2016.