With Owen leading the line, Pakistan Football League gets govt nod – Sport

KARACHI: The man who once used to lead the line for England was, on Monday, leading talks for the launch of a franchise league in Pakistan.

Former England and Liverpool striker Michael Owen scored for the Pakistan Football League as soon as he touched down in Islamabad, helping the project get the government’s nod.

The approval came when a delegation of the PFL, which has been termed “illegal and unsanctioned” by the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee, met Inter-provinical Coordination minister Rana Sanaullah, who is also the prime minister’s adviser on political and public affairs.

A statement from the Ministry of Inter-provincial Coordination termed the meeting “a significant milestone in the government’s efforts to promote sports, in line with the Prime Minister’s Vision”.

This is the second time Owen has come to Pakistan in a bid to launch a franchise league in the country. On his last visit in 2022, he came as the brand ambassador of Global Soccer Ventures (GSV), which has now been rebranded to PFL.

The PFL plan, according to an official statement, is to construct a “state-of-the-art soccer city stadium” in Karachi. Two years ago, GSV held a “ground breaking ceremony” at the NED University.

Those plans have been revived. Alongside Owen this time were his former England and Liverpool strike partner Emile Heskey and former France full-back Pascal Chimbonda.

The PFL has also committed to establish academies alongside holding the franchise league.

In an event at Parliament House later on Monday, Senate Chairman Yousuf Raza Gilani assured his support for the PFL, which hopes to be the football counterpart of cricket’s Pakistan Super League.

“Let us celebrate the spirit of football, embrace diversity, and work together to create a brighter future one where every child has the chance to chase their dreams on the football field,” he added.

The PFL plans to launch its event in November this year but it faces opposition from the FIFA-appointed PFF NC. The Haroon Malik-led NC has stated it is the sole body to regulate football in the country and threatened it would open disciplinary proceedings against players and officials who decide to take part in the PFL.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2024

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