National Challenge Cup kicks off from Friday [Dawn]

National Challenge Cup kicks off from Friday [Dawn]

PESHAWAR: The latest edition of the National Challenge Cup kicks off on Friday in Peshawar in the backdrop of the impending arrival of a normalisation committee to take over the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) affairs.

Announcing the details of the Rs1.2million tournament on Tuesday, PFF senior vice-president Syed Zahir Ali Shah said that this was only the beginning of a “series of football activities in Pakistan” despite global body having announced earlier this month that footballing affairs in the country would be the responsibility of the normalisation committee which is expected to come into force by September.

Zahir is a member of the PFF body recognised in the country, which came into power following an election in December last year on the orders of the Supreme Court which saw Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah elected president. That election came at the end of a years-long legal battle for PFF control with FIFA recognising the body led by Faisal Saleh Hayat.

FIFA’s decision to appoint a normalisation committee for the PFF is to end the dispute once and for all with the committee’s main function to hold fresh elections of the country’s football governing body. The dispute had extended to the players who were divided between the two groups in the recent 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying round fixtures against Cambodia after both factions had organised training camps.

Eventually the players who were in the camp organised by Hayat were able to take part in the two-legged tie against Cambodia, which Pakistan lost, but the Ashfaq group said it had let those players off with a warning and they were free to participate with their teams in the Challenge Cup.

“Those players have been sent showcause notices and advised not to go to the wrong side otherwise strict action would be taken,” said Zahir.

“It is the responsibility of the players to judge which is the actually representative body.”

Zahir announced that the matches of the Challenge Cup will be held at the Tehmas Football Stadium with 16 teams including Pakistan Army, Pakistan Navy, Pakistan Air Force, Khan Research Laboratories, Pakistan Railways, Sui Southern Gas Company, National Bank of Pakistan, Wapda, Masha United, Ashraf Sugar Mills, Pakistan Television, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority, PAF Tigers, Karachi Port Trust, Pakistan Police and Karachi United taking part.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2019

The News adds:

KARACHI: The PFF National Challenge Cup, featuring 15 outfits, will commence at the historic Tehmas Khan Football Stadium, Shahi Bagh, Peshawar, from July 19.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Football Association president Syed Zahir Shah announced this at a press briefing in Peshawar on Tuesday. Also present on the occasion were organising secretary Basit Kamal and former FIFA referee Qazi Asif.

The event is being conducted by Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah-led Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) which was formed as a result of the Supreme Court-ordered elections held in December last year.

Zahir said it was decided to have a national-level event in Peshawar for engaging players. The teams are: Army, Navy, PAF, KRL, Railways, SSGC, Ashraf Sugar Mills, PTV, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), WAPDA, PFF Tigers, Karachi Port Trust (KPT), Police and Karachi United.

K-Electric are not featuring in the competitions. “What we have been informed is that their budget has not been passed yet,” Basit Kamal told ‘The News’. The opening match will be held on July 19 at 8pm.

Zahir claimed that historic Tehmas Khan Football Stadium was in excellent condition. “It also has floodlights. Some matches will also be organised under floodlights,” said Zahir, a former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health minister.

The winners will be awarded Rs500,000 and the runners-up Rs300,000. The third-placed finishers will get Rs200,000. The winners of the fair-play trophy will also get Rs70,000. The best player will get richer by Rs40,000, while Rs30,000 each will be given to the best goalie, the leading scorer and the best emerging player.

Zahir said arrangements had already been completed. He said that the best referees would be invited to supervise the matches. There will be two matches a day, first starting at 5pm and the second at 8pm.

Zahir said a selection committee constituted by PFF has short-listed probable players purely on merit to represent PFF Tigers. He said that they had not been able to get any sponsorship. He said KP Director General Sports Asfandyar Khan had extended support to the KP Football Association for holding the prestigious event. “It will be for the first that Peshawar will be hosting such a high-level domestic event,” he said.

When asked about the suspension of eight players who had featured in the World Cup qualifiers, Zahir said they had sent showcase notices to all those players, advised them not to go to the wrong side, and warned them that stern action would be taken against them if they did. “It is the responsibility of the players to judge which one is the representative body,” he said.

He said FIFA has taken a very positive step by announcing a normalisation committee to hold fresh elections of the PFF and club scrutiny across Pakistan. “There will be two members each of the Faisal group and Ashfaq group and the committee will be headed by FIFA’s representative,” Zahir claimed. “Football activities will continue. After the National Challenge Cup we have chalked out a comprehensive programme for the promotion of football in Pakistan,” Zahir said.

Published in The News, 17 July 2019