KARACHI: National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) have a perennial problem. They go shoulder to shoulder with the top sides but struggle to put away sides they are expected to cruise past.

Their latest undoing came against Sindh Government Press (SGP) in the opener of the inaugural Naya Nazimabad Quaid-i-Azam Departmental Football Tournament at the KMC Stadium on Sunday.

Early in the second half, a stunning chip from outside the area by Abdul Jalil caught NBP goalkeeper Mohammad Omar of his line to give SGP, in the second division of Pakistan football before the game was suspended in the country following a dispute in the PFF and a subsequent FIFA ban, a 1-0 win over their top-tier and more fancied opponents.

The Group ‘D’ game had few clear-cut opportunities even though NBP dominated posession. And the result opens up a section hit by the apparent last-minute withdrawal of Pak-Afghan Clearing Agency (PACA).Tournament organisers were trying to contact former Pakistan playmaker Mohammad Essa who had vowed his team PACA would be taking part but to no avail till the filing of this report.

Sources close to the situation told Dawn that it was apparent that the PFF dispute had spilled into the tournament. Essa, they said, is a supporter of Faisal Saleh Hayat, the president of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) recognised by global football body FIFA.

The tournament is being organised with permission from the PFF administrator appointed by the Lahore High Court, who FIFA doesn’t approve of and therefore banned Pakistan last month for what it termed ‘third-party interference’. The administrator was appointed by the court after a full blown dispute in the PFF in the run-up to its presidential election in June 2015, which saw it break into two factions.

That has seen football suspended in the country. The Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) and the second-division Pakistan Football Federation League (PFFL) haven’t taken place since the 2014-15 editions. A few national level tournaments have been organised since while the Hayat faction went to court to stop the administrator from holding football events.

The Sindh Football Association (SFA), which also supports Hayat, tried to stop this 16-team event. Tournament organisers claimed that Essa, who had announced a players association to ‘protect the rights of players’, had criticised that move, saying it would harm football and footballers in wake of the ban.

Yet, in a rude shock for them, Essa withdrew his team, throwing the tournament’s Group ‘D’ into disarray.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2017

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