Essa laments AFC Solidarity Cup withdrawal [Dawn]

Essa laments AFC Solidarity Cup withdrawal [Dawn]

by Mir Shabbar Ali

KARACHI: The main purpose behind the formation of the players association seems to have gone in vain.

Former Pakistan football team captain Mohammad Essa, however, thinks otherwise.

Almost a month ago Essa launched the association declaring their main aim was to see Pakistan featuring at the AFC Solidarity Cup — a competition launched this year by Asia’s football governing body for its lowest-ranked sides.

But the faction of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) led by Faisal Saleh Hayat and recognised by FIFA and AFC decided not to send a team to the tournament which will be held in November.

“Pakistan should’ve taken part in the Solidarity Cup,” Essa told Dawn on Wednesday.

“We needed some exposure since we haven’t played much of international football in recent times [due to the PFF crisis],” he added, referring to Pakistan slipping to an unprecedented low of 194th in the FIFA rankings.

The PFF has been mired in crisis ever since it split into two factions in the lead-up to its presidential elections in June last year after a full-blown dispute over the controversial Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections in April.

With the two groups — one led by incumbent president Hayat and the other by contender and vice-president Zahir Ali Shah — heading into the polls, it saw the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervene and order a stay on the elections.

The Hayat group however went on to hold the elections and that has resulted in a drawn-out battle against the honourable court which appointed retired Justice Asad Munir as PFF Administrator till the issue is resolved.

In September last year, FIFA backed Hayat and has given him two years to conduct fresh elections.

Essa, though, stopped short of declaring any move to pressurise the Hayat faction into sending the team despite his claims that the players have been suffering.

“Protesting our withdrawal from the tournament wouldn’t count amid the problems going on within the PFF,” Essa reasoned.

Essa also expressed his concern about FIFA’s move to stop Pakistan’s development funding.

“The move to stop funding has increased fear within the players’ circle about their futures,” he added.

Published in Dawn October 6th, 2016