KARACHI: The rift has widened; the differences having grown. Sardar Naveed is no longer with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah.

Naveed, the vice-president of Ashfaq’s PFF which came to power through an election held by the Supreme Court in December 2018, said he was walking away because the ideals had changed.

A few weeks ago, Naveed had raised several objections to plan by the group to sign an agreement with a company, Global Soccer Ventures Limited, which effectively gave it the rights to hold a franchise league in Pakistan.

“I don’t want to be party to that agreement which is basically a sellout of Pakistan football,” Naveed told Dawn on Tuesday. “Despite being the vice-president, I never got to see a copy of the agreement.”

The group of officials led by Ashfaq were never recognised by global football body FIFA, which appointed a Normalisation Committee to oversee football affairs in the country in September 2019. The group’s takeover of the PFF headquarters back from the NC in March this year saw Pakistan being suspended by FIFA.

“There seems to be no will or desire to get in line with FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation nor are they interested in holding talks with the NC members,” Naveed added. “At this point in time, all concentration has shifted to holding domestic events and the franchise league. And that is something I don’t agree with.”

Naveed had long been a thorn in the working of the NC. His election as Punjab Football Association president in April 2018, held on the orders of the Supreme Court, was accepted by FIFA and after the NC was appointed, he had a court ruling in his favour that he was PFA chief till 2022.

It was Naveed’s controversial election as the PFA chief in 2015, which sparked the biggest dispute in Pakistan football history and sparked a crisis that has plagued the game in the country till this day. But now he leaves a post that he’d been fighting to hold on to for years.

“The term was going to get over anyway next year and I’ve decided that I wanted to distance myself from Ashfaq’s PFF for the time being,” he said. “I wish them best of luck with their future endeavours and hope that the process of normalisation of Pakistan football continues.”

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2021

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