KARACHI: FIFA is finally acting in the way it should have previously to resolve years of conflict, crisis and controversy in Pakistan football.
The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee chairman Haroon Malik is not just going to hold election of the country’s football governing body but he will also be putting systems in place for the future elected body to follow, several people close to the matter have told Dawn on the condition of anonymity.
Global football body FIFA seems to have finally realised that just holding a PFF election won’t resolve the deep-rooted issues that have stagnated football’s growth in the country.
“Instead of dictating orders from Zurich to hold the elections as quickly as possible, FIFA is now monitoring situation on the ground even more closely to ensure there isn’t a potential fallout from a hastily-conducted election,” one of the sources said.
One of FIFA’s concerns remain the fact that several of the contesting groups could go to court in case a result isn’t favourable for them. The biggest threat of that happening comes from the group comprising Ashfaq Hussain Shah, Amir Dogar and Sardar Naveed Haider Khan.
They won a PFF election held by the country’s Supreme Court in December 2018 in coalition with the group led by Zahir Ali Shah. However, they developed differences soon after FIFA appointed the Normalisation Committee under the chairmanship of Humza Khan in September 2019.
The current mandate of the PFF NC is until June 30 but it is very likely to be extended further and FIFA has given carte blanche to Haroon to hold the election when the time is right.
The contesting groups want the election to be held as soon as possible but the tedious process of a fair club registration is an obstacle towards holding that. Earlier this week, Sardar Naveed lambasted the PFF NC for not giving an election timeline yet during a news conference in Lahore.
Sardar Naveed argued that his group can take back control of the PFF headquarters from the NC since they had initially handed over charge of the facility. Sardar Naveed also has a verdict in favour for him at a local court, which ruled he is the Punjab Football Association (PFA) till 2022 as he won an election for the post in 2018, nearly three years after a disputed election for the provincial body saw Pakistan football fall into the long-running dispute which eventually led to the appointment of the NC.
“In an ideal world, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) don’t want the same people back at the PFF in a different guise,” one of the sources told Dawn.
The removal of Sadhana from the NC is one of the moves in that direction. Sadhana, survived the initial revamp of the NC and when he was named acting chairman, it was celebrated by members of the Hayat group as a victory since he was nominated onto the NC by that faction.
Sadhana’s removal, sources have said, was also due to the fact that he hindered an investigation by the AFC into Aid-27 payments taken back from former Pakistan assistant coach Nasir Ismail by the PFF during Hayat’s long tenure as president.
Haroon, though, won’t confirm the powers he’s been entrusted by FIFA to correct Pakistan football.
Sources have told Dawn that FIFA is also looking at changing some of the statutes in the PFF constitution during the NC’s tenure.
Many argue that the constitutional changes can only be made by the PFF executive committee but FIFA has recently set a precedent in Egypt where the NC has been tasked to review the statutes of the Egyptian Football Association and ensure their compliance with FIFA Statutes.
Attending the National Women’s Championship match between Masha United and Higher Education Commission at the KMC Stadium on Saturday, the only thing Haroon disclosed was that the PFF election roadmap would be shared in April — a definite indication that the PFF NC is here to stay beyond their June 30 mandate.
He instead wanted to talk more about the fact that football was back.
“It’s good to have the action back, isn’t it,” he quipped when asked by Dawn about the powers he’s been given by FIFA.
Haroon is also looking forward to Pakistan’s participation at the SAFF Suzuki Cup in September this year. On Friday, the PFF NC announced that the national team camp for the event will be held in three stages, the first starting in May.
“We’re going to try our best resources to have the team well-prepared for the event,” he said. “We’re also looking to play international friendlies during the upcoming FIFA windows.”
With the rest of Asia playing their postponed 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in the upcoming windows ahead of the SAFF Cup, and in a time of travel restrictions due to Covid-19, it seems hardly that the national team will get a look-in ahead of South Asia’s marquee football tournament.
With Pakistan placed at a lowly 200 in the FIFA rankings, there seems very little chance that the teams taking part in the World Cup qualifiers would look to playing Pakistan as practice during the windows they wouldn’t be playing qualifiers.
“Our FIFA ranking isn’t indicative of the quality of our players,” stressed Haroon, indicating that it was the flawed structure of the PFF in the recent past that has resulted in the team’s slide down the rankings.
“The PFF NC has a mandate to hold football and we want to focus on that in order to improve our standard.”
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2021