Infantino welcomes dialogue but won’t accept govt interference in PFF affairs

Updated 19 Sep 2020

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ZURICH: FIFA president Gianni Infantino gestures during an online press conference following the FIFA Congress on Friday.—courtesy FIFA
ZURICH: FIFA president Gianni Infantino gestures during an online press conference following the FIFA Congress on Friday.—courtesy FIFA

KARACHI: FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Friday welcomed dialogue with the Pakistan government on the issues it has with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee but warned against interference in the matters of the body appointed by the global football body.

FIFA installed the Normalisation Committee to oversee PFF matters in September last year after football in Pakistan was marred by crisis and controversy for a significant part of the last decade. The Humza Khan-led committee has a mandate until the end of this year to hold elections of the PFF.

However, the Normalisation Committee has faced backlash since it was appointed. The latest came from the Pakistan government, which last month wrote a letter to FIFA, asking it to send a delegation to the country “in order to engage in critical dialogue with the relevant stakeholders”.

FIFA turned down the request but has since asked the government to provide evidence of the accusations it has labelled on the Normalisation Committee of favouring one of the groups in the elections it has to conduct.

Earlier this week, an invitation to the PFF Normalisation Committee to attend the Board meeting of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) was also withdrawn.

At a virtual press conference following Friday’s FIFA Congress, the very first online meetup of FIFA members due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Infantino said he hoped Normalisation Committee plays its role in reviving the game in Pakistan.

“The simple fact that there is a Normalisation Committee in Pakistan, as it is in other countries, is a consequence of situation that was already very very complicated and difficult,” Infantino said, when asked by Dawn about the letter from the Pakistan government.

“That’s why with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), we decided to appoint the NC with some precise duties and bring back the football system in Pakistan which is a huge country ... which per se brings a lot of complications as well due to the size of the country.

“There are some issues and we’re having discussions with the Pakistan government,” added Infantino. “There is a search for the dialogue but we obviously don’t accept interference in sporting matters.

“We want to collaborate and we hope that with good services from AFC and FIFA in support of the Normalisation Committee we can overcome the current complicated situation and bring back normality and football the way that Pakistan deserves it.”

Infantino’s comments are the latest backing for the Normalisation Committee. FIFA has insisted repeatedly that the Normalisation Committee “has made important progress in key areas of its mandate”.

However, the government doesn’t seem to be a fan of the PFF Normalisation Committee.

The PSB Board was reconstituted in June this year with PFF among the three sporting federations included. PFF Normalisation Committee chairman Humza was due to attend the first meeting of the Board on Thursday but he was informed on Tuesday that he shouldn’t attend.

The reasoning provided was that since the PFF Normalisation Committee was an interim body, its officials weren’t required to attend. The PSB, however, added that once the PFF elections are held, the office bearers of the new body will be invited to attend the Board meeting.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2020