LAHORE: A motorcyclist rides past the building of Pakistan Football Federation headquarters on Wednesday.—AFP
LAHORE: A motorcyclist rides past the building of Pakistan Football Federation headquarters on Wednesday.—AFP

KARACHI: The ban finally came, more than two months after FIFA had warned it would. But it doesn’t really solve the problems in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF). Rather, it has only exacerbated them.

The global football governing body announced on Wednesday morning that it was suspending PFF with immediate effect since it was under the control of a court-appointed administrator.

It also points at the fact that the PFF faction headed by Faisal Saleh Hayat had failed FIFA as it didn’t achieve the objectives set out when it was given a two-year mandate back in September 2015 to amend its statutes and conduct fresh elections after a major dispute broke in the run up to its presidential polls earlier that year.

Football has come to a standstill in the country since, with the Lahore High Court (LHC) having declared the election conducted by Hayat’s faction as null and void after the PFF broke into two factions in the aforementioned dispute while appointing an administrator — retired Justice Asad Munir — to manage its affairs till the case was resolved.

FIFA did not accept the administrator and it’s him they want out.

“FIFA has decided to suspend the PFF with immediate effect in accordance with the decision of the Bureau of the FIFA Council dated 10 October 2017 on account of undue third-party interference,” it said in a news release.

“The Bureau took this decision as a result of the fact that the PFF offices and its accounts remain in control of a court-appointed administrator, which constitutes a violation of the PFF obligations to manage its affairs independently and without influence from any third parties in accordance with the FIFA Statutes.

“The suspension will be lifted once the PFF offices and access to the PFF accounts are returned to the PFF.”

What is unclear in FIFA’s statement, however, is who will the administrator — if the court eventually does order — return the PFF offices to with the mandate given to Hayat having expired last month.

FIFA did not reply to a request for comment by Dawn on Wednesday.

Its member associations committee had earlier set a deadline of July 31 for the administrator to hand over control of the PFF after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had sought a two-year extension to his mandate.

However, it is highly unlikely that the court will hand over of the PFF offices and its accounts to the Hayat faction having already declared his election illegal in an earlier judgment. The next hearing of an appeal is scheduled on October 17.

Shahid Khokhar, the spokesman for the Hayat faction, was adamant that the only solution to the problem was if Hayat was given control of PFF offices. “That is the only solution at the moment,” he told Dawn on Wednesday.

In a video released to local media, Hayat blamed the ruling government for the ban and said it would be prolonged if offices weren’t returned to him. He also claimed it would stop FIFA’s 2018 World Cup trophy tour from coming to the country.

A prolonged ban, however, could see FIFA appoint a normalisation committee to oversee fresh elections — the usual modus operandi once FIFA slaps a ban on its member association.

In the interim the ban cuts off funding from FIFA — which has already been stopped for a year —and bars national and club teams from international competitions — which has already been the case since February last year despite Hayat’s two-year mandate.

But most crucially, it now prevents officials from attending FIFA and AFC meetings. Adding more woe for Hayat is the fact that he will now not be able to do his work at the AFC, of which he is an executive committee member while chairing its legal committee.

“They will now know our pain,” former Pakistan national team assistant coach Nasir Ismail, a vocal critic of Hayat, told Dawn on Wednesday.

“The players and coaches have been suffering for the last two years while they have enjoyed perks and privileges while attending FIFA and AFC meetings. This is a decision that should’ve been taken immediately after the dispute in the PFF broke out.”

The dispute broke in the PFF amid murmurs of government interference which never really materialised and a controversial election of the Punjab Football Association (PFA).

It saw the PFF break into two groups with Hayat’s long-time ally Zahir Shah challenging him for the president’s post and eventually LHC intervention — a violation of FIFA requirements that wants its members associations to be managed independently without any outside influence.

Hayat was also alleged to have twisted election rules to ensure only his hand-picked people are elected to the PFF Congress. It is one of the reasons why the opposing faction is against a fresh election conducted by a Hayat-led body.

In a statement on Wednesday, former PFF secretary Hafiz Salman Butt hoped FIFA’s decision to ban the PFF would lead to reform.

“I hope this sees the PFF house given to right people of the football family,” Butt said, adding they expect a FIFA mission to come to Pakistan and hold free and fair elections.

Another former PFF secretary retired Col Mujahid Tareen echoed Butt’s view, adding Pakistan had also been banned in 1995.

“But FIFA came and resolved the situation by holding fresh elections under its supervision,” he told Dawn on Wednesday. “FIFA now needs to hold meetings with the stakeholders and prepare a roadmap for fresh elections.

“While the officials of the Hayat faction have been carrying on their activities, it’s the players who have suffered the most.”

Pakistan football now awaits FIFA’s next move to resolve its crisis.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2017



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