Women's football captain fears for future of game in Pakistan

Due to leadership crisis at PFF, Pakistani footballers forced to contact regional bodies on their own

Faizan Lakhani
Women's football captain fears for future of game in Pakistan

KARACHI: The tussle to get on the helm of affairs at the Pakistan Football Federation is frustrating local footballers, who have started contacting regional and global bodies on their own in attempts to ensure Pakistan’s participation in various events.

As the PFF led by Faisal Saleh Hayat was unable to send the women team to this month's SAFF Women Championship due to some constraints, Hajra Khan—the captain of Pakistan women's team—contacted officials at SAFF to ask if the team could participate on its own with a private sponsorship.

"As soon I realised that the final dates to confirm the participation in the SAFF Cup was approaching and the Pakistan Football Federation was unable to do anything, I wrote to SAFF asking if there was a possibility for us to participate as Pakistan team but privately sponsored," Hajra told Geo.tv on Tuesday.

"They referred it to PFF, and we didn't get any positive response," she rued, adding that PFF should have spoken to the players before making a final call on the team's participation in the SAFF Women Championship.

Hajra said that the situation was frustrating and demotivating for the players at every level—not just the women team but the men's team as well.

She feared that if things did not improve soon, the day would not be far when parents stop their children from opting for football as a professional career.

"It has been one and half years that the federation has been dysfunctional. We missed the South Asian Games earlier, we are about to miss SAFF Cup, we’ll miss AFC qualifiers. This is very demotivating for all the players," she said.

"We are not able to play competitive football at home. What is left for us? Play on our own on the weekends?” she asked.

The crisis in Pakistan football emerged last year when a faction led by Faisal Saleh Hayat won the controversial elections but his opponents, apparently backed by the government, refused to accept him as president and challenged the results in court.

Faisal, however, got the backing of FIFA but he has not received the approval of the courts as yet.

Pakistan hit their lowest-ever 197th position in FIFA ranking last month as the team has not been able to play any international match since March 2015.

"I would like to appeal to whoever it may concern…please allow us to play. [If] you want to fight, do whatever you want. Whoever wants to be president, be the president. But try to be a little patriotic and think about the players who represent Pakistan," she said.

"As far as women's football is concerned, we have worked really hard for the last ten years to reach where we are, to achieve recognition. But it seems that everything has gone to waste. And whenever football resumes, things will restart from zero," she added.

Tribute match for Shahlyla Baloch

The captain of the Pakistan football team also confirmed that team members were planning a tribute match on December 10th to honor their deceased team-mate Shahlyla Baloch, who died in a car accident in Karachi in October this year.

"We'll also officially retire Shahlyla's jersey number 7 on this occasion," she announced.