Local politics pushes football off the field [Express Tribune]

Local politics pushes football off the field [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), which is responsible for facilitating and promoting football in the country, has been giving the sport constant trouble throughout 2015.

Pakistan missed out on four major regional events including the ongoing South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship, where the team was slotted in Group A with hosts India, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U16 and U19 Championship qualifiers and the SAFF U16 Championship.

In the domestic circuit, the local clubs were deprived of the Pakistan Premier Football League and the Division B league as the federation failed to keep aside their political interests out of an already underdeveloped sport in the country.

The football saga revolved around Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat and his ambition to stay in the office even after spending a good 12 years as PFF president.

Hayat has managed to established ties with the AFC and FIFA, but failed to implement the world governing body’s statuettes and regulations throughout his tenure in a timely manner.

The cracks in PFF’s affairs appeared in April with the controversial Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections, which the PFF Director Projects and appointed secretary of the electoral committee Colonel Farasat Ali Shah said never took place, although Hayat’s administration declared its former marketing director Sardar Naveed Haider as the PFA president.

During the PFA campaign, Haider’s opponent Arshad Lodhi, allegedly supported by the Punjab Government, also raided the PFF Football House in Lahore twice and took over the offices in July.

Farasat then joined Hayat’s opponent Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Football Association chief Zahir Ali Shah to bring in Arshad as the interim PFF president, hence forming two factions in the federation just two weeks before the scheduled PFF elections on June 30. Together they claimed that Hayat had embezzled funds received from FIFA and the AFC.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) was involved in the debacle and gave notices to both parties to withhold elections while Hayat was also contesting a case against the National Sports Policy which limits the term duration of a PFF president.

Despite LHC’s order, Hayat held the elections in Changla Gali, and both FIFA and AFC approved of him as president for a third term.

In July, the LHC declared PFF elections null and void, froze the accounts of the federation and handed a contempt of court charge to Hayat and his secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi.

The LHC also appointed Asad Munir as the administrator to run the federation and hold new elections.

By August, FIFA’s three-member mission came to Lahore and by September its executive committee decided Hayat would stay for two more years as PFF president if he implemented the FIFA statuettes, updated them and improved the local governing body’s transparency. A progress report would also need to be made available to FIFA.

On the other hand, Munir feels that FIFA contradicted itself with the decision but as an administrator, he wants to resume football activity in the country and hold the PFF Cup in January.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2015.