KARACHI: It was the first appearance for Royal Eagles FC at the much-awaited Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) National Women’s Championship, as if getting a slot in the draw was easy, but their campaign ended with a brawl.
The National Women’s Championship has been a spectacle, even a school league can claim to be better than the one that the national footballers had to see.
While the draws of the 14-team tournament only came a day before the event, which are suspected to be made on the whims of the unprofessional staff of the PFF, it has only seen the women footballers play at uneven, grass-less ground of the Lahore Women College University, which has a cricket pitch in the middle of it.
But the players and the teams involved continued with the championship because they wanted to play badly, as the PFF had failed to hold any domestic events during the last three years because of the politics to keep Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat in the president’s office, one that he has held since 2003.
PFF is a fiefdom and nothing can highlight it better than the ongoing National Women’s Championship.
For the most part, the participating teams and the players cannot talk about the problems that they are facing, and that has been witnessed by me on one-on-one level as a reporter. Where even after the fight and the unfair refereeing decisions the teams cannot speak up against the PFF as they fear backlash.
“It is strange, it is the top tournament for women in the country, it doesn’t have quarter-finals and it is not even giving a chance to the female footballers to showcase their talent properly. It is disappointing. We can’t talk on the record because then we will have to face the consequence,’ said one participant.
“We have to play and we want to play, but the grounds are bad and there is not much in terms of the system for the players who are in the tam. We suffered a lot because even the draws came very late, and that made the preparations difficult for us.”
The PFF does not provide any help in the expenses that the teams have to bear to travel to the venue, but only the accommodation, while many players were forced to play for another club instead of their own because of PFF’s inability to proceed with the draws properly.
There were 14 teams competing in the event divided into four groups, two consisting of four teams and two of three each.
Last month in a letter PFF had kept three clubs in the standby position, and were too late to confirm their place in the tournament which had resulted in many players to switch their club teams to departmental teams.
Meanwhile, there is also no professional system in place when it comes to club and player NOCs.
Meanwhile, there was a second fight during the day, between Diya FC and Army, which was not highlighted at all because Diya FC founder Sadia Shaikh is also a part of the PFF.
On Sunday alone, Royal Eagles lost 2-1 to Wapda in their last group match, a match where officials seemed in favour of the winners.
The fight broke out after the final whistle of the match, where the supporters of Royal Eagle FC were arguing with the referee.
While the Royal Eagle FC owner and coach Azeem Khan have released a press statement saying, “Royal eagle FC strongly and categorically condemn the disgraceful incident that happened (on Sunday), after the match of Royal Eagles FC vs Wapda in Lahore College for Women University.
“The trouble erupted was entirely against the spirit of football and it tarnished the reputation of this esteemed sport. We acknowledge the efforts of PFF to revive women football in Pakistan after four years and REFC will continue supporting PFF in terms of women empowerment.”
Royal Eagles FC is just a new club in the national women championship, but then there are clubs that have to wait for more than half a decade to even get a chance to play at the championship like Karachi United FC.
Royal Eagle FC has most of its players from Gilgit-Baltistan and although the championship saw new teams, there is no sign of defending champions Baluchistan United FC.
Most people within the football circuit are suspecting that there is nobody looking over the PFF women’s wing, whereas PFF Director Finance Nadia Naqvi, who has no experience of football organisation is holding meetings at the championship with players and is likely to be the face of the women empowerment at the official level.
However, the championship has failed to serve its purpose as the players that PFF will be selecting for the national team to participate at the South Asian Football Championship would not exactly be coming from a professional process or proper merit.
For example Punjab Football Association vice-president and Model Town FC owner Mian Rizwan Ali has been a match commissioner at the tournament, while his team has played in it too, which puts the integrity of refereeing and officials in jeopardy. Ali is also hosting the championship matches at his own ground too.
Earlier, at the inaugural National Women U15 Championship and National Women U19 Championship, somehow Model Town FC qualified for the semi-finals too.
The tournament’s final will now take place between Wapda and Army on Thursday after the former beat Punjab 3-0, while the latter defeated Karachi United 10-0.