Mixed feelings as All-Pakistan Football Tournament set to kick off [Express Tribune]

Mixed feelings as All-Pakistan Football Tournament set to kick off [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: The country’s top football clubs are currently busy training for the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) All- Pakistan Football Tournament, which will be played in Karachi from January 17.

K-Electric coach Hassan Baloch, whose side won the 2014-15 Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) season — also the last time the league took place before falling prey to the federation’s infighting — has already been in training with his charges for a week.

With the country’s premier football league suspended for the last two years, Baloch admits the upcoming tournament comes as an oasis in the desert, although he would still want the PPFL to return.

“It is a great initiative for now as we at least have something that will help overcome our rustiness. We will try to prove our mettle but again this is only a temporary solution,” Baloch told The Express Tribune.

“The absence of the PPFL and other official tournaments is really hurting us. We, as well as our clubs, need these tournaments to remain in football,” said Baloch before adding that PAF, PIA and KRL will be his team’s main rivals in the upcoming competition.

Baloch’s views were seconded by his PAF and NBP counterparts Arshad Khan and Nasir Ismail respectively, with the latter holding the view that the All- Pakistan Football Tournament will provide some good exercise but is not the answer to ending the plight of football and footballers in the country.

“All the clubs want to play and compete at a higher level and so everyone is coming together, but it is akin to providing some oxygen to the ailing football fraternity in Pakistan,” said Ismail.

“Of course, it will be nice to begin the year on a positive note, but the truth is that the FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation is not interested in solving Pakistan’s case. We need a permanent solution soon.”

Belittling the tournament at hand and yearn for the PPFL was certainly the trend among the coaches, with WAPDA coach Tanveer Ahmed being the sole exception.

“We want to go into the tournament at full strength,” explained Ahmed, who appears to be taking the tournament serious than most other. “We will be taking 23 players to Karachi because and our aim is to go all the way; nothing less. We have experience in our ranks, but we want to see our younger footballers make their mark too.”

Published in The Express Tribune, 9 January 2017