KARACHI: The razzmatazz of the recently-concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL) has certainly made Pakistan international footballer Kaleemullah a fan.

He now hopes a football tournament begins on the same lines as the glitzy franchise-based Twenty20 cricket league.

Kaleem was the ambassador for losing PSL finalists Quetta Gladiators and he says that a professional league is imperative to raise the standard of football in the country.

“Without a high-profile league, there is no chance of improving football in Pakistan,” the striker, who plays for United Soccer League (USL) side Tulsa Roughnecks, told Dawn on Wednesday.

“The first step towards promoting football is establishing a professional league.”

He believes franchise-based teams are the way forward.

“In the United States, there are franchise-based leagues governed by their football regulatory body — from the top-tier Major League Soccer (MLS) to the third-tier USL — and that is what we should try in Pakistan too,” Kaleem added.

The Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) mainly sees departments and clubs compete with limited budgets and little or no sponsorships.

It hasn’t been held since a dispute broke out in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) heading into its presidential elections in 2015.

“There should be steps taken to have a franchise-based league in the country but unfortunately we don’t have any football in the country at the moment,” added the striker who won four PPFL titles with Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) before moving abroad.

He informed that the Gladiators were also willing to make a football team.

“Gladiators want to make a football team too,” he said, “…but that can only happen once football is revived in the country.”

Kaleem is due to return to the United States to rejoin Tulsa following the pre-season.

“I took rest from the pre-season but I’ll be rejoining Tulsa very soon,” said Kaleem, who featured for K-Electric in the National Bank President’s Cup in January.

“It’s my the second and last year of my contract with them so I hope to do well as I have some offers from elsewhere as well.

“There are interested clubs in Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia and a lower league side in the United Kingdom who have made contact but right now I want to focus on doing well for Tulsa.”

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2017

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