SAFF Club Championship: Departments vow to resist PFF NC’s likely move

SAFF Club Championship: Departments vow to resist PFF NC’s likely move

by Alam Zeb Safi

LAHORE: Departmental football teams have joined hands to launch a strong protest against the intent of Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) Normalisation Committee to ignore departments and field a club in the inaugural SAFF Club Championship to be held next year.

“A Whatsapp group has been formed which carries officials of all departments. We have held a debate on this issue. We are going to hold a huge protest in front of the PFF Headquarters in Lahore. We have reached a consensus,” a senior official of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Nasir Ismail told ‘The News’ on Friday.

“I have been fighting since long. And it’s good that others also came to know about the real face of NC’s chief. I had warned all departments that NC would isolate them but they were not listening to me. In future NC would also deprive departments of their voting rights,” Nasir said.

“NC’s step will create a big job crisis for footballers also. So far 24 departments have been abolished only in Karachi during the last few years which have already hit the players hard,” Nasir pointed out. “Its immediate solution is that NC should go for a 15-day event, featuring all Premier League teams. And the name of the winners of this event should be sent for the SAFF Club Championship,” Nasir suggested.

Meanwhile, former Pakistan captain and current head coach of Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) Mohammad Essa said that it was a wrong decision to ignore departments.

“You (NC) don’t have mandate of changing the status of departments which have spent huge amounts during the last 20 years on football. We will hold protests, will go to courts and there is also a chance that we may boycott the National Challenge Cup,” Essa told this correspondent.

“For taking such a step you need to make ground first. It’s a long process. NC has the authority to issue notice to all clubs to start working on club licensing. It’s a big mistake to take such a decision on its own,” he said.

“NC has come to resolve a dispute and if it has started creating disputes itself then no one will accept it,” Essa said.

Five-time Premier League champions KRL will be hit hard if NC goes to field a club in the SAFF Club Championship inaugural edition.

KRL Director Sports Ayaz Butt also rejected NC’s intent. “It’s totally unacceptable,” Butt told ‘The News’.

“We are spending millions. These people (NC) are making headlines and have decided to abolish departments which have already been restored by the state. It’s a big injustice. I will contact the PFF NC and if it does not cooperate then we will go onwards,” Butt said.

“They have ignored all the departments and the three bottom-placed teams of the Premier League (Afghan FC, Muslim FC and Nushki’s Baloch FC) are on their radar to play against each other and the winners will go to the SAFF Club Championship. Look, on their instructions we have also got ourselves registered via FIFA Connect Programme. I put KRL in 2008 in the club licensing and we played five AFC events abroad. The issue is that these people don’t want to see us feature in this event,” Butt said.

“We are giving Rs20 million to players in terms of salaries in a year. It’s a soft message to us to abolish departments,” Butt was quick to add. “I had also sent a letter through email to the NC chairman and a senior member regarding club licensing and they had pledged that they would consider KRL in the club licensing. I have its audios also,” Butt said.

“In 2008 we converted our department into a club and sent documents to the federation and they accepted that. I have the proof of that document and we are also registered in the district kacheri Rawalpindi,” he said.

He said that these people want to render players unemployed. It’s violation of the government order relating to the revival of the departmental sports, he added. “If you pick the SAFF Club Championship rules the winners of the Premier League will play in it and what type of the Premier League is this in which three clubs are to feature. We have been playing the Premier League since 2005 and we are five-time champions and it’s our right to be part of this event,” Butt signed off.

This correspondent asked NC’s chairman Haroon Malik via whatsapp about their intent to field a club in the SAFF Club Championship but he did not reply.

Meanwhile, sources in NC told The News that it’s NC’s intent to send a club for the event. SAFF Club Championship will carry 16 teams — four each from India and Bangladesh, three from Maldives, two from Nepal and one each from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

Published in The News, 25 November 2023