KARACHI: Humza Khan’s appointment as the chairman of the FIFA-appointed Normalisa­tion Committee for the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has seen a wave of protests from the officials of the previous regime.

For a long time, FIFA backed Faisal Saleh Hayat as Pakistan’s football chief. Hayat, PFF chief since 2003, clung on to power thanks to support from the global football body despite opposition locally.

Now, he’s the one who is opposing FIFA’s decision vehemently. Dawn has learnt through reliable sources that Hayat lodged a strong protest with the FIFA president over the appointment of Humza as well as the conduct of Alexandre Gros, the senior governance services manager of FIFA’s Member Associations Committee who shaped the Normalisation Committee.

FIFA, though, isn’t having any of it.

“While we do not reply on such specific matters, generally speaking, FIFA has full trust in the process and work developed so far since the decision of the Bureau of the FIFA Council to establish a normalisation committee for the PFF and will continue to work together with AFC [Asian Football Confederation] towards bringing Pakistani football back on track and see it thriving in the country,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Monday when asked whether Hayat had protested to the FIFA president.

FIFA’s decision to appoint a Normalisation Committee came in June, following the visit of a fact-finding mission to the country a month earlier and nearly four years after Hayat organised divisive and disputed elections of the PFF.

Hayat’s opposition to the officials of FIFA’s fact-finding missions is nothing new. Back in 2015, when FIFA had also sent a mission following those controversial elections, Hayat had also written a strong-worded letter to the AFC over the conduct of the officials of that mission.

Then, influence from the AFC averted a possible Normalisation Committee. This time, though, it seems even the AFC has had enough.

Since the appointment of Humza as the Normalisation Com­mittee’s chair, officials of the Hayat faction have been questioning his neutrality, citing that since he formerly played for Karachi United, he would share the same views as that of the club’s founder Taha Alizai who has been a legal representative for the PFF faction that was opposing Hayat locally in a long, drawn-out court case that came to a close in December last year.

Pakistan football has suffered over the last four years due to conflict off the pitch, the national team having been in freefall and slumping down to a dismal 204th in the FIFA rankings. FIFA’s statement to Dawn on Monday shows that the world’s football governing body realises Pakistan football can’t continue to suffer anymore.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2019