KARACHI, Feb 16: Indifferent attitude of a local football club and slackness of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has left an imported Nigerian player in the lurch as he has been stranded penniless and without shelter in the country.
Akeem Abbas, a 19-year-old Nigerian, was offered by Wohaib Club to represent the side at the Pakistan Premier League through a deal brokered by a Germany-based Pakistani soccer aficionado, Malik Riaz.
Malik got in touch with Akeem through e-mail. The player was then introduced to Islamabad-based PTCL employee Sharafat Hussain who is believed to be a close aide of Wohaib Club chief Hafiz Salman Butt.
Although Akeem says he represented the club at the league in as many as 11 matches, he has not been paid a single penny as compensation or contract by the club.
“I was contacted by Malik Riaz who introduced me to Sharafat. Sharafat assured me that I will receive the contract and the money once I land in Pakistan. I travelled from Nigeria on my own expenses but I have been cheated by the club owner and Sharafat,” said the young player.
“I have not been paid any money except a meagre amount of Rs100 as three-day sustenance allowance. Now I have no money for food, shelter and my three-month visa also expired a month ago,” Akeem told Dawn in an exclusive interview on Saturday.
Speaking about his ordeal, the midfielder who represents Nigerian club Indomie in Otta, said after being lured by Sharafat he landed in Karachi on Oct 16 last year before moving to Wohaib Club base Lahore from where he travelled along with the team to play the opening game in Islamabad.
However, after shuttling for some time in between Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad to play matches for the club, he inquired about the contract from Sharafat who promised that he would soon get the money and the agreement. Malik also assured him of the contract and that he would talk to Salman.
“But they were false promises and it was a clear case of cheating,” recalled Akeem. “Sharafat didn’t want me to meet Hafiz Salman because of some internal politics. Whenever I went to Lahore, I tried to meet Hafiz Salman but his personal assistant Moazzam was deputed to prevent me from doing so,” he said.
The Nigerian added that he was later stopped by Salman from playing home matches on the pretext of being a “sub-standard” player, simply because he pressed for his contract.
“I was surprised and so were my team-mates on being stopped from playing further matches. Had I been a bad player, I would have been stopped after just a couple of matches. It was all because they didn’t want to pay me anything.”
Akeem said that when he finally had a chance to meet Salman face to face at one of the team meetings in Lahore, he challenged his authority and asked him to explain why he had been chopped off from the squad.
“I asked Hafiz Salman why he has ordered team officials to stop me from playing more matches. He asked me to sit down and didn’t say anything further.”
Akeem said he was eventually paid Rs2,700 for travelling only after he met Salman again and informed him that he had a valid visa and return ticket.
“They [club] were scared that I will complain to somebody if I get into some sort of trouble for having an expired visa. So I told them I have a valid visa and ticket. A driver bought me Rs300 bus ticket from Lahore to Islamabad and I left.”
The PFF was equally ruthless and showed no compassion for Akeem despite SOS messages from the player.
“I also sent an e-mail to the PFF, telling the whole story and asking for their help. But I never received a reply. I didn’t sign a formal contract with the club which was a big mistake. Now I can’t get help from my embassy as they demand to see a contract with the club, which I don’t have,” the teenager said.
PFF vice-president Abbas Baloch, when approached, said a foreigner playing for a local club should bring a No Objection Certificate from his home club to be submitted to the PFF.
Whether Wohaib Club submitted an NOC to the PFF could not be ascertained as PFF secretary Col Ahmad Yar (retd) was not available for comments.
Currently, the stranded Nigerian player has been provided shelter and is being looked after by a CDGK sports employee Ahmad Jan for the past four days.