Open Letter to the PFF President

Open Letter to the PFF President

Source: (3 Aug 2012)


My humble greetings on to you.

As a fervent of Pakistani Football, the last few months have been pretty emotional for me.

Seeing the team gain favourable results in friendlies unearthed some hope in my heart, but when the time came to perform, we were thrashed around in the AFC U22 Championship qualifiers against sides we would have seen off with ease 40-50 years ago.

PFF was formed by Quaid-e-Azam and it is no surprise just like the country founded by him has been sent down the drain, his beloved sport football has too. A sport played and watched by the ordinary working class is being ran by military men and politicians, just like the motherland.

You are very passionate for football but somehow it is not reflecting in the management that is running or shall I say ruining the football in Pakistan.

The things happening under your nose at Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) are of concern to me and others who follow domestic football and the national team of Pakistan (there aren’t many of us). It’s true.

We were always a laughing stock in world and Asian football but your first term as PFF president promised us hope and with titles in 2004 and 2006 SAF Games, fans believed we had turned a corner.

Sadly more of the worse was to come as you set into your second term, which brought new office bearers to the fold who have done terrific job in undoing the work of their predecessors.

You want to know why?! It’s because the PFF has failed to initiate domestic reform and professionalism of football, and also because the people running the PFF have vested interests with no real vision.

In our rival governing bodies of SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) region, the posts are occupied by sport and business management professionals. But the PFF is filled with ex-servicemen, including retired Colonels, Majors and Wing Commanders who have no experience of football whatsoever.

The Secretary General is a retired Lt Colonel, whose job it is to oversee the game and foresee the future of football with vision, ambition and commitment. The Director Operations is a retired Wing Commander who previously headed sports department of a government college and worked in Pakistan Squash Federation (now we know why squash went down the pipe).

Nationwide football is under the wing of this Wing Cmdr but it’s clearly lacking the direction, vision and the willpower to overhaul domestic football system to enable Pakistan to compete in the region. Various other retired servicemen occupy other football- and admin-related posts in PFF.

In the last 6 years Pakistan has failed miserably locally and abroad, national senior and youth teams continue to struggle under foreign and local coaches while domestic football has gone from bad to worse.

In fact, Pakistan league champions have failed to beat clubs from minnows Bhutan and Mongolia; countries with much worse football scene than Pakistan.

There is no genuine youth set-up for young talent offering them a competitive route into football inside Pakistan or abroad.

Government departments continue to dominate local football due to having voting rights in PFF Congress while they do absolutely nothing for players under the age of 16 and somehow expect them to be world-beaters having had no professional coaching until that stage.

Our dream of qualifying for Qatar 2022 is nothing but a joke, taking into account the fact that we are doing nothing to strengthen the grass roots level properly.

A so called ‘Vision 2020’ seems like nothing more than a gimmick on paper with no concrete steps being taken to ensure the talent is developed to even try and qualify for either 2020 Olympics or 2022 World Cup.

You don’t just qualify for such events on basis or raw talent and just luck. Lot of planning, investment and hard work is required for at least a decade to reap benefits of it.

Sadly with current management which is just living off handouts from FIFA and AFC the vision wont be implemented purely because it requires investment which the federation has failed to attract due its own conduct.

I know PFF continues to use lack of funds as an excuse, what have the officials done to attract investment from the corporate sector?

KASB Bank purchased rights for the domestic football for 5 years back in 2009 but had to leave just after a year due to difficult nature of PFF to implement the ideas.

PFF currently has no marketing director and no main sponsors and while it had marketing director for 5years there were no major sponsorships either for the domestic football or the national teams or even TV coverage for domestic football.

GEO Super started a private league which attempted to popularize the game back in 2007 but due to lack of support from the PFF it stopped because somehow PFF cannot look beyond the departmental football set up.

Just compare your staff with neighbors India. We can learn something in regards to football and professionalizing sport in general from them.

It’s a global reality that sports governing bodies are mainly headed by high profile politicians and it’s no surprise that All India Football Federation is headed by Praful Patel, Minister for Heavy Industries. But it is his office bearers that make the difference. AIFF Secretary General, Mr Kushal Das is a former CFO of IMG and ICC, a chartered accountant by profession with decades of corporate experience.

I have no doubt that you and Mr. Patel are equally busy with your political careers, after all you have spent majority of your tenure as cabinet minister in previous and current government.

You took great steps in your first terms such as streamlining football in shape of Pakistan Premier League and various other competitions but they have all become cannon fodder due to lack of investment, professionalism and modernization.

Sport has moved on from just being administered by retired servicemen, it’s a professional industry now which requires daring personnel to take it to next level.

This is something which must be brought to your attention immediately. Sir, you are a member of the AFC Executive Committee and you would already know what FIFA’s stance is on gross misconduct and corruption.

A recent report suggested rampant corruption and match fixing in the Pakistan Premier League when its already plagued with forfeits and walkovers which violate the sportsmanship rules.

Yet the teams continue to stay in the PPL, why? Because they have voting rights in the PFF Congress now!

Lethargic attitude by your staff in dealing strongly with this matter has only encouraged these teams to forfeit and fix at will even when there is relegation and title deciding games are on stake.

The league has been expanded on political basis rather than strategically which has damaging effect on players and their development, from playing 22 matches in 100 days they now play 30 matches in 4 months with hardly more than two-day gap between matches. The league is inhumane.

Professional leagues elsewhere with just 10 teams last up to six months while in Pakistan the league is expanded but the season duration remains stagnant.

There are no proper competitions in place for the junior teams throughout the year other than ad-hoc two-week “national championships”, which are insufficient to prepare and develop players for international standard.

Secretary General and Director Operations for years have fired the gun from shoulders of coaches in order to save their posts. Akhtar Mohiuddin was sacrificed in 2008 after SAFF Cup failure when it was clear the team was ill-prepared and captain picked on political preference.

George Kottan also had to endure the same treatment while Graham Roberts had to suffer further humiliation when he was promised a contract which was later rejected in favor of Tariq Lutfi of PIA, a department that participates in PPL and holds vote, conveniently in the year of PFF football elections.

His appointment further set us back and now with Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic, the same issues remain as football in Pakistan is not of the standards for foreign coach to focus solely on national team as our players still lack basics.

Speaking of which, there is still no dedicated training facility for our national teams after 9 years of your presidency, and neither is there an actual football stadium anywhere in Pakistan which PFF owns exclusively.

Pakistan U16s won the SAFF U16s event last year beating India in the final which was credited to great work done by the PFF with all smiles around, 2 months later the same team failed to qualify for the Asian U16 Championships because there were no proper exposure trips provided.

On the other hand the Indian U16s qualified for AFC U16 Championship and their team has been based in Florida for last 2 years training at IMG Soccer Academy.

Our U16 team so far for a year has no further chances of progression via overseas trips or any players having opportunities to move to academies or clubs abroad.

They say success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. I can categorically say sir in Pakistani football your Secretary General and Director Operations have fathered these failures in last 6 years.

I kindly request you to urgently reform and restructure the organization and appoint competent people from the field of sport management, marketing and corporate administration who have the vision in transforming the PFF into a professional and commercial organization and football a sport for the masses.

Pakistan need to start a youth development program from the age of Under-9s onwards while PPL sides should establish youth academies from the same age groups following a common football curriculum which must also be developed.

There is need for a Director of Football, ideally a foreigner who can come and design such curriculum and oversee the development. Local coaches also need to be developed up to the required standard where they can coach the youth basics of the game early on.

Sir, it seems our hopes in Pak football will always remain unanswered unless you put your foot down and demonstrate transformational leadership to lead from the front and change our football destiny.

Yours Sincerely,

A disgruntled Pakistani football follower