LAHORE: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president Faisal Saleh Hayat is facing a new contender to his throne.

Malik Aamir Dogar, a sitting MNA from the country’s ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, on Monday announced his candidacy for the president of the country’s football governing body in its upcoming elections, most likely to be held on December 12 in Islamabad under the orders of the Supreme Court.

Not only will Hayat have to contend with Dogar, who became the first man to announce his candidacy for the post, he will also have to make do in the election without his longtime ally Sardar Naveed Haider Khan, the Punjab Football Association (PFA) president who has shifted his support to the PTI leader only recently and sat alongside him at Monday’s news conference.

“There’s nothing personal regarding the disassociation with Hayat,” Sardar Naveed said. “I think he has done a lot of work during his tenure [since 2003] but I think it’s time for change. I parted ways because there is a difference on opinion regarding which direction we should take for further uplifting the game of football in the country.”

With Dogar being a MNA, there are chances of government involvement in the PFF elections. World’s football governing body FIFA has rules that strongly prohibit any third-party interference into matters of its member associations but Sardar Naveed sounded confident it wouldn’t be the case.

“The elections are being held by the consent of the PFF [even though they are being held under court orders] so there will be no sanctions,” said Sardar.

The PFF has been mired in crisis and controversy for the last three years since its disputed elections in 2015. FIFA also banned the PFF for a six-month period that ended in March this year. FIFA had since given Hayat a mandate till March 2020 to ratify the PFF statutes and hold fresh elections.

“The election commissioner has also asked both FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), along with the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), to send their representatives.”

With the PFF statutes requiring a candidate for its president to “have played an active role as member PFF Congress, member PFF executive committee, PFF, AFC or FIFA elected official for at least two of the preceding five years before being proposed”, there are doubts whether Dogar is eligible.

However, Dogar said he’s eligible since he’s “an elected member of the PFA Congress”.

“My father has rendered services for the game and we conduct the huge All-Pakistan Malik Salahuddin Memorial Football Tournament in Multan on a regular basis,” he added on his love for the sport.

With Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Football Association (KPFA) president Zahir Shah also likely to announce his candidacy in the coming days, there could be a three-way tussle for the PFF hotseat which means every vote will be crucial.

Overall, 23 members of Congress cast their votes. Among them, there are eight departmental votes. Pakistan Army are among those eight departments and have another vote courtesy their victory in the National Women’s Football Championship.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2018

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