SAFF participation at stake: Essa pleads for an end to PFF conundrum [Tribune]

SAFF participation at stake: Essa pleads for an end to PFF conundrum [Tribune]

KARACHI: Former national team captain Muhammad Essa Khan criticised the government for creating the mess that can lead to Pakistan’s failure to participate in the 2015 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship, which begins next month in Kerala, India.

Essa branded the infighting within the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) as ‘embarrassing’ and asked the government and the Lahore High Court (LHC) to retreat in favour of the FIFA-backed Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat so that the game goes on.

He further added that even though it is late, the team can still be ready, provided that the authorities immediately resolve their differences.

“Of course we don’t see ourselves going, and it’s going to be embarrassing,” Essa told The Express Tribune. “We can prepare a team in a month if the government backs off and let the PFF officials favoured by FIFA work. I do feel the blame goes a little on the courts and the government.”

The PFF is currently embroiled in a bitter power struggle between two groups, one of which is headed by Hayat, who has gotten his position ratified by FIFA. In the opposing corner sits Asad Munir, who currently controls the PFF at the LHC’s behest.

On the other hand, even if the impasse is somehow resolved overnight, Munir hardly seems optimistic about the team’s chances of travelling to India.

“The political situation in India isn’t exactly very inviting of Pakistanis there,” he said. “They have sent other Pakistani sports officials back, so it’s going to be difficult.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2015.