KARACHI: In its first online meeting, the FIFA Council ratified the decision to extend the mandate of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee till December this year.

The seven-member Bureau of the FIFA Council, the main decision-making body of the world’s football governing body, had decided in May to give the PFF Normalisation Committee a six-month extension in order to allow it to hold elections of the PFF by the end of this year since most of its plans were ravaged by the global novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The ratification of that decision was one of the points on a wide-ranging agenda of the FIFA Council which met on Thursday.

“The FIFA Council has ratified that decision,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Friday, adding that the PFF Normalisation Committee had made ‘significant progress’ since being appointed in September last year following years of crisis and controversy in Pakistan football.

The Normalisation Committee’s was initially given a mandate until June 15.

Pakistan to get $1.5million as part of global body’s Covid-19 relief plan

At an online press conference following the Council meeting, in which the joint Australia-New Zealand bid won the vote to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced that FIFA will give each of its member associations a $1million payment with an additional $500,000 specifically for women’s football in the third stage of its Covid-19 relief plans.

In the earlier stages, FIFA had provided immediate release of operational funds from its Forward Programme while also allowing the usage of project funds for Covid-19 relief plans.

The PFF Normalisation Committee has only been able to receive operational costs from the Forward Programme since it has been appointed but a FIFA spokesperson confirmed to Dawn that it will receive the full amount of $1.5million from the ‘universal solidarity grant’.

FIFA also announced interest-free loans to its federations of between $500,000 to $5million, depending on their audited annual revenue.

“Both grants and loans can be directed by member associations to the wider football community in their respective territories, including clubs, players, leagues, or others that have been affected by Covid-19,” said Infantino. “Clubs and federations are in real danger. In some parts of the world, football has not restarted. We need to help them.”

PFF Normalisation Committee chairman Humza Khan welcomed the announcement of the universal solidarity grant and said it will aid in the return of football in the country.

The Covid-19 pandemic halted the second-tier Pakistan Football Federation League while the Pakistan Premier Football League was never able to kick off. The solidarity grant can be used, amongst other operational and infrastructure needs, for restarting football competitions and for implementation of return-to-play protocols including testing of players.

“This will certainly help us,” Humza, who had already planned to distribute funds to needy current and former footballers in the country before the solidarity fund announcement, told Dawn on Friday.

“Of course we want to resume football activity when the government allows and it’s safe to do so. We’d already said we wanted to hold a women’s football league and there were plans to hold tournaments at district levels for club scrutiny [the first step towards holding the PFF election] so this funding will go a long way in helping us do all that.”

FIFA’s ruling committee also gave the green light to a pan-Arab tournament to be played in Qatar next year as a test event for the 2022 World Cup.

The tournament, featuring 22 Arab nations from Asia and Africa, will involve home-based players only and will run from Dec 1 to 18.

It remains to be seen, however, which countries will participate with Qatar in a diplomatic standoff against Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Infantino confirmed that the tournament draw for the Qatar World Cup would be held in April 2022 although the identity of two teams would be undecided by that time after FIFA pushed back the four-team intercontinental playoff from March to June that year.

The move comes with World Cup qualifying having fallen behind schedule due to fixtures being postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The FIFA president said changes had been made to the international match calendar with the September international window being postponed for Asia, Africa, North and Central America and Oceania but matches will go on in South America and Europe subject to the virus situation.

FIFA extended the June 2021 match window by seven days, allowing four matches instead of two for Asia, Africa, North and Central America and Oceania when European and South American teams will be playing their continental competitions — the Euros and the Copa America — which were postponed this year.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2020