Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president Hayat was due to run for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) vice-presidency for the South Asia Zone later on Thursday against All India Football Federation (AIFF) chief Praful Patel but has decided to step down in favour of his Indian counterpart, credible sources told Dawn.
The sources, speaking in the early hours of Thursday morning from the Bahraini capital of Manama where the elections are due to be held, said Hayat wanted to ‘preserve the unity of the South Asian region’.
The South Zone was created during the AFC Extraordinary Congress in Australia in January this year when the Central-South Zone was split into two.
“Hayat decided not to contest against Patel as he wants to maintain the unity within the South Asian region,” the sources said.
“Although he has not officially declared that he’s not contesting since he can’t back out now, its been decided that its one bloc and he shouldn’t contest for the larger interests of the region.
“They believe there should be no rivalry in the region and that close ties should be fostered between South Asian nations for the growth of football.”
The sources added that there were protracted discussions between Patel and Hayat on Wednesday with SAFF president and Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) chief Kazi Salahuddin and Football Association of Maldives (FAM) president Ilham Ahmed.
“They had a long meeting,” the source added. “They decided there should be no rivalry in the SAFF region.”
The sources did not add on what the talks have been about. Rumours are abound that a possible deal for Pakistan players to feature in the Indian Super League (ISL) has been agreed. Patel had earlier said that the lucrative and glitzy ISL is a tournament for South Asia.
It’s also being said that Hayat decided to not to run for the vice-presidency because Patel had assured him of his seat in the AFC Executive Committee.
Hayat was also standing for his ExCo seat at the polls while Patel was running for only the vice-presidency slots.
Prior to leaving for Bahrain, Hayat had told Dawn that he was "very confident of his chances of winning the vice-presidency seat".
Hayat had admitted his AFC campaign had been "affected by the fact that the government was pitting his former ally Zahir Shah" against him for the upcoming PFF elections in June.
A PFF insider, meanwhile, had told Dawn on Wednesday that "Hayat was all but sure to win the polls".