PFL vows to build ‘sustainable football ecosystem’ [Dawn]

PFL vows to build ‘sustainable football ecosystem’ [Dawn]

LAHORE: Without presenting a framework on how it will build “a sustainable football ecosystem”, but saying that it will “mobilise the sport”, the franchise-based Pakistan Football League held its launch event in grand style here on Tuesday.

The 10-team league, modelled on similar lines as cricket’s glitzy Pakistan Super League, is slated to start in November this year but PFL’s CEO Ahmer Kunwer stressed during his address the strategy was “way beyond a six- to eight-week league”.

“The key objective for us is about creating an ecosystem that can [help] uplift football in Pakistan … and obviously the most important thing is giving our players the opportunity to play football,” Kunwer said.

“We’re not here to run, or to race, we’re here to design an ecosystem on three basic principles: infrastructure, international pathways and healthy structured competition,” he added, noting the presence of delegates from clubs including Spanish giants Barcelona, Portugal’s Benfica and Argentina’s River Plate.

“We as a franchising enterprise, we are here to mobilise and empower our advocates … our franchisees. We are going to mobilise football so that these franchise owners are empowered to create a business model that not only sustainable but also gives them the opportunity to make it a business enterprise.

“We are empowering [franchise] owners from cities who can actually look at cultivating talent and make them professional athletes. The franchise owners have taken upon themselves that challenge.”

Kunwer added that the project was not about making money. “It’s not going to make money for the first five years. We want to mobilise the national movement.”

Five franchises in Peshawar, Lahore, Sialkot, Faisalabad and Karachi were also announced.

The launch event was held a day after PFL’s delegates, including former England star striker Michael Owen, held meetings with the government.

Owen was joined by his former England and Liverpool strike partner Emile Heskey, former France full-back Pascal Chimbonda and journeyman Spanish former defender Raul Rodriguez at Tuesday’s launch ceremony that lasted nearly three hours.

“A galaxy of stars has come to Pakistan,” PFL chairman Farhan Junejo said at the ceremony. “These football stars will guide our children about the sport.”

While the PFL has secured support from the government, it has been termed “illegal and unsanctioned” by the FIFA-appointed Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee.

“We are not here about creating an independent empire or a parallel body,” Kunwer said. “We just want football to prevail.”

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

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