ISLAMABAD   -   The 1st Inter-City Football Championship first phase has started at different venues of the country with 41 teams in action from across the country.

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) President Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah along with vice president MNA Amir Dogar said this while addressing a press conference held here at PSB Media Centre on Tuesday.“As I had promised to take football to grassroots level, we have taken the initiative. All the 41 teams are playing the Inter-city championship at different venues of the country. The first phase will conclude on April 21 and the second phase involving 12 teams will start from April 23,” said Ashfaq.

About prize money, the PFF chief said that they have set Rs 1 million as prize money, besides trophies, best player, best goalkeeper and a special prize of Rs 25,000 for the best picture being sent to the federation for social media.

To a query regarding including a parallel team of Sargodha instead of genuine team, based on Faisal-backed group, Ashfaq said: “Yes it is true that Sargodha team had backed off and it came to my notice on Tuesday. But these things do happen, as we are new and we are facing a lot of difficulties. But only one team out of 41 was missing initially, which is clear indication that footballers believe in the federation and we are here to take all onboard. We don’t believe in liking and disliking, those who play well can represent national team.”

When asked why District Football Association Rawalpindi president Shoukat Ali Khan was not given the right to enter the team for the championship, Sharafat Bukhari replied: “Ishtiaq Shah is elected president of the association and he was given the choice and right to select the Rawalpindi team for the championship. But Shoukat is an old footballer and an active member and we will take him onboard.”

When asked why the federation is seemingly divided into two groups and vice president Sardar Naved Haider has been calling all the shots, Amir Dogar replied: “It is not the case. There is a difference of opinion and we all make decisions with complete consent. Sardar Naved is very much part of the federation and all the major decisions are taken after consultations. We are right behind President Syed Ashfaq.”

About the status of TouchSky Group, who are conducting event with World Soccer Stars in Pakistan, Ashfaq said: “I have made it very clear in the press conference that we will not sign any MoU until the federation and above all country’s interests are not guaranteed. The federation has nothing to do with TouchSky Group event in Pakistan.”