KARACHI: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Thursday confirmed that it was still investigating on why the International Transfer Certificate (ITC) was missing for two England-based players who featured in K-Electric’s AFC Cup qualifying playoff campaign.

Irfan Khan and Shani Abbasi were signed amid much fanfare by K-Electric ahead of the qualifying playoff for Asia’s second-tier club tournament and just five days before the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) champions play Bahrain’s Al Hidd in a group stage playoff, Asia’s football governing body confirmed it was still looking why their transfer documentation was incomplete.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” an AFC spokesperson told Dawn on Thursday.

The duo helped K-Electric win the qualifying playoff in Bhutan in August but were released by the side later and will not be a part of the February 9 playoff in Bahrain.

The AFC, however, said that any sanction would not affect K-Electric’s participation in this year’s edition of the tournament.

“The club can compete in the 2016 competition as any possible disciplinary action would not concern the 2016 entry,” added the spokesperson.

The AFC did not immediately respond to a query by Dawn asking what possible disciplinary action could be taken.

The issue about K-Electric being investigated was first highlighted by Dawn in January after a letter emerged in which the AFC asked the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) to provide it with a copy of the ITCs issued for Irfan and Shani.

An 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.

K-Electric never got an ITC for the duo since they claimed Irfan and Shani were Pakistani nationals.

On Tuesday, however, K-Electric head-coach Hasan Baloch told reporters at a send-off ceremony for the team that Irfan and Shani had lied to them that they had played for clubs in England and therefore an ITC was never needed for them.

Blame game

“They were brought in by [former head-coach] Majid Shafiq,” Hasan said. “Irfan and Shani lied to us about playing for the clubs they had mentioned in their CVs.”

Majid, however, argued that K-Electric had made an administrative gaffe in not obtaining ITCs for Irfan and Shani.

“In England you cannot play in an official friendly or match if you’re not registered [with the Football Association],” Majid told Dawn on Thursday. “In such a case, K-Electric should’ve obtained ITCs for Irfan and Shani.”

The FA did not immediately respond to Dawn when asked if a registration was mandatory.

Majid added that Shani had played a couple of friendlies with Ossett Town before his move to K-Electric.

Irfan, meanwhile, said he’d never lied to K-Electric.

“I was training with Eccleshall FC before I went to K-Electric,” Irfan told Dawn on Thursday, adding that he never had a contract with them.

“I played for Bradford Park Avenue in 2011 — that was with the reserve team — while I’ve had trials with professional clubs.”

Dawn understands there is no need for registration for a trial.

K-Electric’s head of marketing and communication Taha Siddiqi, meanwhile, tried to diffuse the situation although he claimed that the players were “never associated” with the clubs that they had told K-Electric about.

“The AFC asked us about the ITCs for the players and told us that it wasn’t a big issue but they were investigating,” Taha told Dawn.

“I understand that they’ve contacted the players and they have submitted their documents as well. And I’d also say that K-Electric are thankful to Majid and have utmost respect for him since he helped us through the AFC Cup qualifying playoff.”

Embarrassing situation

In what seems an embarrassing situation now for AFC and K-Electric, both had announced separately that Irfan had “played for semi-professional sides Thackley United and Bradford Park Avenue”.

That would mean that an ITC was mandatory for Irfan to feature for K-Electric in the AFC Cup.

While the AFC, in a news story on its website on July 22 restricted itself to saying Shani was a “Sheffield Wednesday youth academy product”, K-Electric said that he had gone on to “play for Ossett Town, Farsley AFC and Wakefield FC” in a July 14 media release.

“As long as a player has played his last match in England, an ITC is required where the FA simply confirm he is unattached,” Majid said.

Meanwhile, in another transfer issue regarding K-Electric, a copy an ITC for England-based Jon Ashworth was received by Dawn in which he has the blessings of the Nigerian Football Federation to register with the PFF.

Ashworth represented K-Electric in the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup in Bangladesh in Bangladesh but has never played for a club in Nigeria, namely Kwara United FC as mentioned in the ITC with TMS reference number 119081.

The copy of that document was send to FIFA, which asked Dawn to refer to the clubs concerned and did not comment on the issue due to the “confidential nature of the FIFA TMS system”.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2016

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