‘Intense lobbying’ ahead of AFC elections may boost Pakistan football [DAWN]

‘Intense lobbying’ ahead of AFC elections may boost Pakistan football [DAWN]

KARACHI: With candidates vying to secure their votes ahead of this year’s AFC elections, Pakistan could be a major beneficiary in terms of gaining development projects and inking mutual cooperation deals with other nations.

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi was first-hand witness to the scenes of “intense lobbying” at the AFC Extraordinary Congress ahead of the Asian Cup earlier this month and he believes it may benefit Pakistan football.

The AFC elections are scheduled for May and a number of candidates are planning to stand against president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who is running for a four-year term having been elected in an extraordinary election in 2013.

And approaches have been made to the PFF by his rival candidates.

“We’ve had several approaches from several candidates and national federations seeking to develop football in Pakistan ahead of the May vote,” Lodhi told Dawn on Wednesday.

“We’ve already inked a deal with the Qatar FA last year about mutual cooperation in the development of football last year,” added Lodhi who was attending the season finale of the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) here at the KPT Stadium.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Qatar FA will see Pakistan players use the state-of-the-art facilities at the 2022 World Cup hosts and they will help Pakistan in all fields of football development including women’s football, coaches training and grassroots enhancement.

A Qatari candidate isn’t, however, expected to run against Sheikh Salman. Likely candidates include Japan Football Association (JFA) vice-president Kohzo Tashima and Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Prince Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.

And Lodhi confirmed that the Japanese and the Malaysians were testing waters at the AFC Congress ahead of launching a formal campaign.

“Officials of the Japan FA asked if we’d like to sign an agreement with them to develop football in Pakistan,” Lodhi informed. “We’ll see if we can use the Japanese expertise to develop the game here.”

The PFF also has an agreement with the Korean Football Association (KFA) which sees them gain special insight by them on football matters in Pakistan.

It is also possible that South Korea field a candidate in the AFC elections considering traditional rivals Japan backing Tashima.

Would that see PFF in a quagmire regarding who to support? “We have good relations with almost all of the other national federations,” Lodhi quipped.

PFF also has very good relations with FAM, highlighted by Prince Tengku Abdullah’s visit to the country during the SAFF Women’s Championship last year. “We’ll see who to support if a Malaysian candidate stands,” Lodhi added.

For now, though, the backing seems to be behind Sheikh Salman — courtesy whom the PFF acquired national team coach Mohammed Al Shamlan on a free.

While the AFC elections represent a chance for the PFF to play their cards well and get more development projects for the country, the Faisal Saleh Hayat-led body is firmly behind Sepp Blatter for this year’s FIFA elections.

Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein is challenging Blatter to the presidency of world football’s governing body but Lodhi said the AFC, and the PFF, “wholly rejected” the Jordanian’s campaign.

“We can’t have anything [development agreement] with Jordan, though, as we aren’t backing Prince Ali,” Lodhi concluded.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2015