Players in dire straits after closure of departmental football [SAMAA]

Players in dire straits after closure of departmental football [SAMAA]

by Muneeb Farrukh

The idea to shift the balance of power in sports across Pakistan from departments to a region-based structure made sense, among other benefits, in terms of offering better career paths to players and revival of local rivalries.         

However, lack of a proper transition plan, from departments to regions, has left local players in dire straits — especially in football.

Football in Pakistan has mostly been in the headlines, over the past few years, for the wrong reasons only. As if the officials squabbling over power in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), lack of tournaments and FIFA’s suspension wasn’t enough, footballers in Pakistan are now struggling to make ends meet as some of them have not received salaries from the past three months while others have been terminated by their departments.       

Speaking exclusively to Samaa Digital, Pakistan’s star midfielder Saadullah Khan expressed his disappointment over how the transition from departments to regions has been handled.  

“No matter how many players there are, they shouldn’t be kicked out of their departments because the policy makers of the country have not provided alternative opportunities to these players,” Saadullah said.

“It was clearly written in the letter issued by PM Imran Khan to give sports budget to provinces instead of departments. So, don’t take advantage of this letter. What message are you sending to the young generation who wants to get into sports?”

The Pishin-born also urged departments to send players on duty when they are not playing instead of firing them.

“The players should not be fired. They have a right to be sent on duty if there is no football inside the country. All international players picked by departments are promised a job after they go past their playing age. By expelling them, you are oppressing someone who has represented Pakistan in other countries. Where is the justice? This is beyond my comprehension and a really bad sign for sports in Pakistan,” he said.

However, Saadullah confirmed that he is receiving salary from Sui Southern Gas Company Football Club, where he is the team’s vice-captain.

“Some players are receiving salary including me. SSGC heads are trying to send players to duty and some of them have already started working,” he said.

It must be noted that the federal government had asked departments to stop funding sports teams in September last year. In order to implement the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, departments were asked to prepare a practical transition plan to divert funding to regional teams, within two months, which would be implemented in a period of six months with effect from March 1, 2022. Although, despite the fact that we are almost one month past the deadline, there is no sign of a proper regional structure in the country to facilitate the athletes.

Published on SAMAA, 30 March 2022