KARACHI: The dream might die before it even truly began for K-Electric.
The Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) champions were hoping to take their final step towards qualification for the AFC Cup with victory in the playoff against Bahrain’s Al Hidd on February 9 but their bid to become the first side from the country to reach the group stages of Asia’s second-tier club competition could come to an end before that.
“Chances are K-Electric will be disqualified from the playoff,” a team insider told Dawn on Wednesday. “The matter is with AFC’s legal department and it will decide our fate.”
Asia’s football governing body, however, refused to say K-Electric would be expelled from the tournament.
“We can’t speculate about something like that at the moment,” an AFC spokesperson told Dawn on Wednesday.
K-Electric’s apparent misdemeanour: Not getting an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) for two England-based Pakistani-origin players Irfan Khan and Shani Abbasi who featured in the AFC Cup playoff qualifiers, a two-match round-robin series which they won in August.
A letter seen by Dawn, addressed to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi by AFC general secretary Dato Windsor John on Tuesday requested the former to send a copy of the ITCs issued for Irfan and Shani.
“We kindly request that the PFF provide a copy of the ITC [if any] issued for the above players in favour of the PFF from [England’s] The Football Association (FA) or any other football association as a matter of urgency latest by January 14,” the letter states.
In the above text, the letter states that the two players previously played in England’s lower leagues and according to FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, needed an ITC when coming over to play for K-Electric.
Dawn understands that PFF and K-Electric never got an ITC for Irfan and Shani, claiming they were Pakistani nationals.
“I was not informed I need an ITC,” Irfan told Dawn on Wednesday.
However, since they were coming from England where both players claim they have played for several clubs they needed the certificate.
And ITC is generated by FIFA’s Transfer Matching System (TMS) and requires details and documentation to be fed into the system so the player’s registration can be transferred between the two countries.
FIFA rules stipulate “without an ITC a player will not be eligible to play in a new country for a new club”.
Irfan and Shani, who have left K-Electric since the AFC Cup playoff qualifiers, were both registered at lower-league English clubs Ossett Town and Eccleshall FC.
“They played in England using their British passport and used their Pakistani passport when they came to play for us,” the K-Electric insider added.
“What’s sad is that if there was an issue, the AFC should’ve told it to us at that time. Not now when the team is gearing up for next month’s playoff.”
The AFC was asked by Dawn whether it had acted upon a complaint and taken action at this point in time.
“No complaint has been made but this is rather part of enquiries the AFC is making on player registration,” its spokesperson said.
When asked if there was any clause in the competition regulations which might get activated if K-Electric fail to send the relevant documentation, the spokesperson replied: “No, the competition regulations do not suggest punishments.”
There is, however, a sense of doom already inside K-Electric, who won their maiden PPFL title last season and vowed to build a footballing legacy in the country.
“Millions of rupees that we’ve spent, is seemingly going down the drain,” said the K-Electric insider.
The dream might die before it even truly began for K-Electric.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2016