By Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: Pakistan’s main striker and former Sacramento Republic FC player Kaleemullah believes Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) suspension as a FIFA member association will hit the player the hardest, even though they had nothing to do with it.
“FIFA suspended Pakistan because of third party intervention; it’s embarrassing and it’s shameful — all because PFF officials couldn’t sit together to solve the issue,” Kaleemullah told The Express Tribune. “It’s heartbreaking because the PFF divided into two factions in 2015 only due to the egos of the officials involved. They don’t really care much since it’s the players who have to suffer. It has been two-and-a-half years now since Pakistan played any international tournament. We have had no premier football league or even a second division league. These past few years have been a complete disaster.”
Pakistan played their last international fixture on March 23, 2016 against Yemen in the 2018 World Cup qualifying round, which they lost.
Kaleemullah became the first Pakistani player to be signed a United Soccer League club during this time. However he believes it becomes very tough for the players to promote themselves if they aren’t playing in domestic tournaments.
“What can we show the clubs? People ask us about our national team’s performance — when we played our last international match and why we don’t have a professional league. We don’t have an answer for that,” said Kaleemullah.
The 24-year-old said that even before the 2015 controversy, the sport wasn’t making much progress.
Throughout this time, the PFF never strived to make even a single international standard football stadium in the country.
“Even before government interference in 2015, we can’t say our federation did much for the sport,’ said Kaleemullah. “Neither stadiums nor academies were developed and the professional league continued in the same way. The entire region is progressing; Afghanistan and Bangladesh are improving leaps and bounds while India has gotten so far ahead that they are hosting the FIFA U17 World Cup. The PFF, meanwhile, has done nothing for the sport.”
Kaleemullah urged FIFA to jot down a roadmap leading up to new PFF elections rather than leaving the sport at the mercy of the officials.