-File photo

Like a typical, shrewd politician, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat and his men staged another gimmick by sacking Siddique Sheikh (PFF Director of National Teams and Grass Roots Development), Nadia Naqvi (PFF Director Finance), and the PFF-listed AFC AID-27 coaches. This, in the name of accountability and financial downsizing, following embarrassing results by the national team throughout this year.

It is important to note that while Mr Sheikh and the AID-27 coaches were somewhat responsible for the failures on the pitch, the other two individuals have had no role to play. Hence, the PFF media release  has termed the sacking of Sheikh and Naqvi as ‘resignations due to personal engagements.’

This, however insignificant development, too has come after sustained pressure from the media which has demanded the accountability of coaches and technical officials like Sheikh, Pervez Mir (Director Operations) and Ahmed Yar Lodhi (Secretary General). It is pretty obvious that a major overhaul is needed and Mir and Lodhi should have been shown the door as well.

Ms Naqvi, the Finance Director, cannot be blamed for any on-field failures but she too has been clumsy within her role, taking months to refund overseas players tickets and delaying payments to PPFL clubs. But to say she will be replaced by a ‘professional’ is another hoax because insiders already know who the job is going to.

Sheikh has only been in his job for a year, although he is not responsible for the failures on the pitch, he has made numerous blunders that have contributed to the overall rot. From organizing haphazard youth championships, providing clubs and players the wrong eligibility criteria to missing deadlines for registration of overseas players like Yousuf Butt and Adam Karim.

To blame Sheikh for the failures is criminal, we have not just had failures under Lutfi alone but this whole process began back in 2007, when the when the officials with no expertise in the field of football or corporate governance. To say Faisal Saleh Hayat's second term was a step back for Pakistani football will be an understatement.

In a term where PFF could have consolidated in terms of promoting and marketing the game and lay foundation for future development, Hayat made political appointments which have brought football in Pakistan to its knees today with domestic football organized in inhumane conditions while the national teams at all age groups continue to disappoint. This was the term where the president ignored domestic football and turned his focus on the high profile positions with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA joining disciplinary committees on both bodies and then going on to become Chair at AFC.

To blame Faisal for everything might be bit harsh because he isn't in charge of day to day running of the federation. That responsibility is entrusted upon Col (R) Ahmed Yar Lodhi, the PFF Secretary General, and Pervez Mir, PFF Director Operations. Back in 2006-07, at a stage when Pakistan football needed corporate executives and sports management and development professionals, the two men were roped in on the basis of having good administration skills alone.

Football has long evolved into an industry that is sold with a vision and ambition, the PFF clearly hasn’t kept up. PFF’s Vision 2020 so far seems nothing more than exercise in futility; something to feed the media with.

Under Mir's dynamic leadership the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) has becoming a laughing stock, with teams playing 30 matches in a grueling 90-120 day “season”. Teams giving walkovers or forfeiting matches at will without any penalties (clear violation of FIFA rules) are also a regular occurrence and the domestic winners being no match for teams from Nepal, Bhutan and Taiwan speak of the standard of play.

Even after seven years, the league still has no TV coverage, no sponsors and while the corporate sector is willing to help it is a little hesitant because of a lack of transparency in the federation. This was evident when KASB bank bought rights for the PPL for five years for half a million dollars, only to pull out after one year due to the very same reason. The deteriorating standard of domestic football is a key factor in the demise of national team, as any new talent that does emerge gets sucked into this swamp of department-centric mediocrity and incompetence.

If Mir is responsible for domestic failures then his superior, Colonel Lodhi, is responsible for a little bit more. Coming into the job with no relevant experience of sports management, he has led the federation into free fall with a reluctance to appoint foreign coaches, poor selection policies, as well as non-existent international relations that could help get tours and matches abroad.

Even after four years of disaster, there is no remorse, no responsibility from these officials while they continue to make excuses and remain coy about their own performance. Sacking the Manager Administrator in order to downsize on expenses will not fool anybody.

Perhaps the only worthwhile step of this ‘PFF cleansing’ was the removal of many bogus AFC AID-27 appointed coaches. They have been on the payroll to help justify the persistent ‘we lack funds’ excuse.

With the current PFF officials in charge of the failing bunch of players and a rotten system in place, Pakistan can expect a thrashing from India when it tours England for a short series in August-September.

The write is Chief Editor, Forum Administrator, and Pakistan Correspondent at FootballPakistan.Com (FPDC).

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