Will FIFA become Pakistan football’s saviour? [TNS]

Will FIFA become Pakistan football’s saviour? [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi [The News on Sunday, 9 August 2015]

Finally, FIFA has intervened in Pakistan’s messy football affairs as was desired by many. Let’s see how much it succeeds in resolving the dispute which has been crippling the game.

I will really appreciate FIFA for the way it takes care of its member associations. No other international federation does the same.

FIFA a few days ago sent a three-member fact-finding mission to Lahore, which was headed by FIFA Associations Committee and Cyprus FA President Costas Koutsokoumnis and included the head of National Associations of FIFA Primo Corvaro and the AFC Director Member Associations Si Song Mun.

The delegation held a series of separate meetings with the warring groups led by Faisal Saleh Hayat, who has served three terms as president, and Syed Zahir Shah, who has been a senior member of PFF congress.

Like Faisal, Zahir is a seasoned politician belonging to Pakistan People’s Party. He was health minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during his party’s rule under Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The FIFA mission, which stayed in the Punjab capital on Saturday and Sunday, took input from the two groups.

Issues relating to election rules, elections in provincial associations, especially in Punjab, the PFF elections, extra-ordinary congress meeting convened by Faisal’s rival group, occupation of PFF secretariat and matters in the courts came under deliberation.

As was needed, before meeting with the two rival factions, the FIFA mission held a meeting with the Pakistan Olympic Association’s (POA) president Lt Gen (retd) Arif Hasan.

Before leaving for Zurich late Sunday night, FIFA delegation held another meeting with Faisal.

Both parties claimed that they played their cards meticulously and would emerge triumphant.

The election of Punjab Football Association (PFA) is the sole cause of the whole dispute. If that matter is resolved the rest of the affairs will be easy to dispose of.

The delegation was bound to report its findings to the relevant FIFA and AFC bodies in due course of time and it must have done that by now. FIFA may take some time before taking a final decision. But it is likely that they will not endorse the June 30 election in which Faisal was re-elected for the fourth successive time. The election was conducted in Changla Gali despite a stay order from the Lahore High Court (LHC).

It has already issued notices to Faisal, secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi, and several others for contempt of court.

The LHC has also declared the PFF elections “null and void” and has appointed former justice Asad Munir as PFF administrator who will conduct the audit and election of PFF.

Faisal’s group has challenged the maintainability of the petition against it filed by the rival group in LHC before the Supreme Court.

If FIFA endorses PFF election, it will not end the dispute and Faisal may face even more tough time from the opposition. And the ultimate sufferers will be none but footballers. The players should not be punished for the sins of officials.

If FIFA opts for re-election, it should be held under the command of FIFA in order to ensure justice.

It would be a more suitable option if the elections at district and provincial levels were also repeated. This would take time but help in forming a healthy set-up for future.

There are several ills in the country’s football set-up which are responsible for the disputes. How one could expect something good from a body whose congress members sell their conscience for getting a foreign tour.

It is commendable that the council of Islamabad Football Association (IFA) deposed its president Dr Fazal-ur-Rehman a few days ago with no confidence motion when he violated the executive committee’s decisions and his own written affidavit by attending the PFF’s June 30 electoral meeting.

In order to ensure a healthy flow of football affairs, powers should be given to provincial football associations which have been working as dummy bodies for a long time and are easily controlled. Some people argue that the government is interfering in football affairs which FIFA does not allow. If it really is the case, then in the past, too, the rise to the PFF presidency has been manipulated by the government’s machinery on several occasions.

In countries like Pakistan and India it is not easy to keep the government away from interference in sports bodies.

The fault is of the sports officials who through their illegal practices allow the government to intervene.

As in most of such disputes, players and coaches suffer the most. If the football dispute is not resolved soon it will definitely keep Pakistan away from international events which will inflict a huge financial damage on players.

In order to safeguard their interest, the players and the coaches will have to form their own associations.

But I wonder why FIFA did not hold meeting with the ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) which had written to it. Initially, there were some rumours that FIFA mission would also meet a top official of IPC but that could not be confirmed.