FIFA ban looming on Pakistan football [Nation]

FIFA ban looming on Pakistan football [Nation]

by Azhar Khan

LAHORE-Football in Pakistan is in jeopardy since June 20, 2015 when a group of people with strong backing of government occupied Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) headquarters FIFA Football House in Lahore forcibly and illegally evicting the PFF officials from their offices.

The turmoil kept on increasing troubles for the players, referees and coaches of football as the football activities were halted at once. The situation became further complex when the Lahore High Court (LHC) single bench declared the election of PFF, held at Changla Gali in the presence of FIFA/AFC representative, null and void and appointed Justice (R) Asad Munir as an administrator of PFF with a lucrative monthly salary amounting to Rs 450,000 along with all perks and privileges. The control of PFF bank accounts was also given to him by the LHC.

After his appointment as PFF administrator, Justice (R) Asad Munir approached FIFA through a letter requesting for release of FIFA funds for running the PFF activities. He was straight forwardly replied by world’s football governing body that it only recognises Faisal Saleh Hayat as the legitimately elected PFF President and it takes appointment of an administrator by the court as third party intervention, which may lead to imposition of FIFA ban on Pakistan football.

In the absence of control of PFF Accounts, the FIFA-recognised body of PFF obviously could not conduct any local or international football activity for the last two years. Consequently, Pakistan had to pullout from a number of international activities including SAFF U-16 Football Championship, Bangladesh, AFC U-16 Football C’ship, SAFF U-19 Football C’ship Nepal, AFC U-19 Football C’ship, SAFF Men’s C’ship India, South Asian Games India, AFC U-14 Festival Tajikistan, AFC U-14 Girls Regional C’ship Tajikistan, AFC Cup 2017 Qualifiers, AFC U-16 Women’s Championship 2017 Qualifiers, AFC U-19 Women’s 2017 Qualifiers, AFC Solidarity Cup, AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2018 Qualifiers, AFC U-23 2018 Qualifiers, AFC U-16 2018 Qualifiers, AFC U-19 2018 Qualifiers, SAFF U-16 2017, SAFF U-19 2017 and SAFF 2017.

Not only action-packed events but also very important coaching and refereeing courses which include FIFA Elite Panel Referee Course, C Coaching Courses x 3, B Coaching Course x 1, AFC Coaching Instructor Course x 1, AFC Goalkeeper Level 1 Coaching Course x 1, and FIFA MA Elite Referee Course x 1.

Non-participation in the above-mentioned international events is itself a big loss which will take a long period and very special efforts to recover and bring football back on right track. The major local activities, which could not be held, were Pakistan Premier Football League 2015 & 2016, National Women C’ship 2015 & 2016, National Women Football League 2015 & 2016, PFF League 2015 & 2016, National Inter-Club Women C’ship 2015 & 2016, National U-14, U-16 & U-19 Football C’ship 2015 & 2016, National U-16 Girls C’ship 2015 & 2016, a number of D license coaching courses and referee courses and refreshers.

The football players, referees and coaches have many times expressed their views that government should free the football and leave it to the FIFA-recognised federation in Pakistan, otherwise, the situation will even worsen as the time passes. Ban on Pakistan’s football by international football authorities will take the football in Pakistan at a level from where it may need decades to recover.

Currently, the situation with football has become very critical, due to alleged government interference in PFF affairs.  In fact this is a rift between FIFA-recognized PFF and government-backed illegal entities. What will be the next; if the situation remains the same, FIFA will ban Pakistan which will be a serious blow for the game as it carries numerous disastrous effects on the football of the country on which it is imposed.

The authorities in Pakistan must realise the fallout of FIFA ban, keeping in view that if it happens; all the football activities will be stopped at once i.e. no national team of Pakistan will be able to play international match inside the country or abroad, Pakistan players playing in international professional clubs will lose their lucrative contracts, development grants from FIFA and AFC will be stopped, elite referees of Pakistan, who are earning hefty amounts by conducting international matches, will not be appointed by AFC for any assignment abroad, coach education and youth development programmes will be stopped; thereby Pakistan football will go into a state of shock from where it may never recover.

Published in The Nation, 12 April 2017