KARACHI: Punjab Football Association (PFA) president Sardar Naveed Haider says he’s ready to defend his seat at any forum, claiming that he was elected in a fair and democratic manner.

Sardar Naveed was announced as PFA chief by the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) on Monday after Friday’s controversial elections for the football association of the country’s largest province with his rivals claiming that the elections were never held.

“If they [his rivals] want to take this dispute to any forum be it FIFA or AFC, I’m ready to defend that I was elected in the manner approved by the PFF constitution which is based on the statutes of FIFA and AFC,” Sardar Naveed told Dawn on Tuesday.

His rivals — the government-backed Rana Ashraf and Arshad Khan Lodhi — have been claiming vociferously that the elections were not held on Friday with PFF Electoral Committee secretary Col Farasat Ali Shah also backing their claim that the elections were postponed on Friday.

Both parties claim that the other was interfering but Sardar Naveed attempted to clear the bad blood surrounding the polls and said that Col Farasat had no authority to postpone the elections.

“Col Farasat had no authority to pass any judgement on the elections,” he said. “At the same time, elections were being held in the other three provinces so why was he not involved there?”

The PFA elections were mired in controversy from the day the nomination papers of the candidates reached for scrutiny.

Another government-backed candidate Ali Haider Noor Niazi saw his papers rejected and his supporters hold the PFF House hostage for two hours trying to push through his nomination last Saturday.

“Noor submitted fake documents about his involvement in football,” Sardar Naveed said. “He had no background in the game.

“As far as I am concerned, I’ve been actively involved with the PFF [as a marketing consultant] for the last decade and have done a lot of service to Pakistan football.”

He said Noor’s failed bid saw the government turn its support in favour of incumbent Arshad and Rana Ashraf.

“They were left with no choice but to support them and they harassed the members of the PFA congress and bullied them into supporting their aim,” said Sardar Naveed.

“I got 15 votes [out of a congress of 28] but the numbers would’ve been greater if different government agencies hadn’t pressurised my supporters.”

Sardar said that originally the PFA Congress constituted of 36 members but claimed “two did not appear, one had been abducted and five others were suspended due to their involvement in the PFF House occupation” which resulted in votes from 28 eligible members.

“With 15 votes, I’ve been duly elected and it’s time to forget the blame-game and working together to serve the game,” he added. “There is no point in politicising football.”

In his first step as PFA chief, Sardar Naveed said he’d planned an inter-city football league in Punjab which will kick off in September this year.

“The league will see all 36 cities of Punjab take part and it will engage aspiring players to come forward,” he said. “It will also see people in the cities owning those teams and ultimately improve football at grassroots level.”

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2015

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