Former captain Kaleemullah hits out at football federation [Express Tribune]

Former captain Kaleemullah hits out at football federation [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Former Pakistan captain Kaleemullah has hit out at the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) after the star forward was left out of the side for speaking out against the federation.

Pakistan will be playing in their first international competition for more than three years come the Asian Games but Kaleemullah has been told he is not part of the squad.

“I went to Lahore for the camp,” Kaleemullah told The Express Tribune from Turkey, where he is now a part of the squad for Izmirspor. “I went to the camp, I spoke to the head coach, the PFF secretary, everyone; I kept everyone in the loop that I need to come to Turkey to sign my contract with Izmirspor and that I can join the team in Bahrain from there. They approved of this. And I requested the PFF to send my club a letter so that I can join them in Bahrain for the training tour, but no letter was sent. It seems like they don’t want me to play for Pakistan.”

Earlier this week, controversial PFF congress member and Punjab Football Association President Sardar Naveed Haider accused Kaleemullah of being greedy for signing with Izmirspor and not coming to camp.

Pakistan’s Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira had recently claimed that Kaleemullah is not a part of the squad for the Asian Games because he was getting married. However, Kaleemullah has denied that claim.

“I’m surprised that the official doesn’t even know I was at the camp before he made that accusation,” said Kaleemullah. “I spoke to the coach after I found out my name was not there in the Asian Games squad. Nogueira said that he didn’t know why my name was excluded but then my name was in the SAFF Championship list. I am glad that I will be representing my country then since that is all we dream of.”

Kaleemullah highlighted the plight of international footballers in the country. “We don’t get paid anything extra; the footballers don’t have central contracts like the cricketers do. In fact we lose money if we play for Pakistan. I’m not greedy at all. Even now I’m waiting for them to send that letter to me. But they haven’t. I was told that PFF President Faisal Saleh Hayat struck my name off the list and that he doesn’t want my name in there. It is all a bit strange, and now the PFF is accusing me of something that isn’t true.”

This is not the first time that the PFF and Kaleemullah have been at loggerheads. Last year, the 25-year-old was set to join another Turkish club but the federation failed to send him a No Objection Certificate as well as other documentation required by FIFA.

“They delayed my International Transfer Certificate (ITF) last year too, I got mine this time from Tulsa Roughnecks so I joined Izmirspors,” said Kaleemullah. “Last year they just kept delaying it when a top Turkish club offered me a place.”

The Turkish season starts next month and Kaleemullah feels encouragement from his new coaches.

“At that time I had good offers, but I really wanted to see things from the other side,” said Kaleemullah. “I want to play in Europe and so I tried. Now I’m in Turkey and it is a good opportunity. They send talent scouts here, players get picked up. So I’m trying my best.”

The striker insists he still wants to play for Pakistan though.  “My dedication is the same because it is my country, but the PFF has not done much. They are not being run professionally. It is the players that have suffered. We don’t have a single stadium or training ground that meets international standards. And they don’t like me anymore because I criticise them.”

Published in The Express Tribune, 6 August 2018