Kaleem wants FIFA, AFC to end Pakistan football drought

Kaleem wants FIFA, AFC to end Pakistan football drought

by Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: US-based Pakistan striker Kaleemullah said on Sunday that FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) should revisit Pakistan’s football imbroglio and help in a viable settlement of the dispute.

“Only FIFA and the AFC can resolve the issue, if they intervene once again. They should come again and sit with both the parties,” Kaleem told ‘The News’ from his hometown Chaman.

Kaleem plays for the Oklahoma-based Tulsa Roughnecks FC. These days he is on leave and will join his club early next year.

After playing for a season for Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi FC he moved to America and established himself as a professional player.

In August last year FIFA sent a fact-finding mission to Lahore which interviewed both factions of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).

In October 2015, FIFA’s Executive Committee decided to give the PFF led by Faisal Saleh Hayat two years during which it was to revise its constitution and hold elections afresh.

But no step has been taken in that direction because of legal issues. Pakistan failed to feature in a number of international events during the last one and half years, which greatly impacted the players’ financial conditions.

Kaleem said Pakistan needed sincere people to run football in which the country had immense talent.

He termed former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa’s bid to form a “players association” a useful step. “Unfortunately most of our players are uneducated. They don’t know the importance of an association. The federation exists because of the players. So players are more important than the federation. It is time for them to come out and struggle for their rights,” said the 24-year-old, who represented Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in Pakistan.

Essa launched a “players association” on September 9 here at the Karachi Press Club.

Kaleem said that the dispute had affected not only the players but coaches as well. “Those associated with the game — whether they are coaches or players — should forge unity. If the players have formed their association, the coaches also should come forward and constitute their own body so that both could join hands and struggle for safeguarding their future,” Kaleem said.

The controversial elections of Punjab Football Association (PFA) in April last year started the mess. The PFF suspended 20 members of the Arshad Lodhi group which later convened an extraordinary Congress of PFF in Islamabad and suspended PFF president Faisal and terminated secretary Ahmed Yar Lodhi.

The congress appointed former PFF Congress member Arshad Lodhi as PFF acting president and PFF former Director Clubs and Projects Col Farasat as acting secretary. Lodhi group then occupied the PFF headquarters in Lahore.

On June 29, 2015, Lahore High Court (LHC) gave a stay order against PFF elections, but the next day Faisal group held its elections 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, which is yet to be disposed off.

LHC declared the June 30 elections null and void and appointed former justice Asad Muneer as PFF administrator. He is still working in that capacity.

The LHC has also tasked a committee to hold elections for PFA and PFF.

Kaleem is also disappointed for not getting international matches. “This has also hurt me personally. Had we featured in the events we missed Pakistan could have achieved a better ranking. People will ask you abroad about your ranking. It’s your ranking that matters,” Kaleem added.

Because of Pakistan’s absence from international circuit due to the dispute the country’s world ranking has plummeted to 197.

Published in The News, 24 October 2016