Football’s latest setback [The News]

Football’s latest setback [The News]

FIFA’s recent decision to suspend Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has further compounded the miseries of national footballers who have been suffering since April 2015 due to sins of others.

World football’s ruling body had to take the action due to interference of a third party. It has left a tough message that unless PFF headquarters and accounts were handed over to the PFF, the suspension would not be lifted.

The FIFA council is expected to ratify the decision taken on October 10 by Bureau of FIFA council at its meeting to be held in Kolkata, India, on October 27.

After meeting both the parties in summer 2015 following controversial elections of Punjab Football Association (PFA) in Lahore, FIFA’s fact-finding mission submitted its report and the world body decided to give two years to its affiliated PFF with the instructions to revise its constitution and hold elections afresh.

But its affiliated unit led by renowned politician Faisal Saleh Hayat failed to take any step as the PFF headquarters in Punjab capital and its accounts were not in its possession.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) recently requested FIFA to extend the period for two more years but the world body thought that it would be of no use unless the headquarters and accounts were not in the hands of the PFF.

FIFA’s Member Associations Committee had warned if the PFF headquarters and accounts were not handed over to the PFF by August 31, 2017, it would recommend to Bureau of FIFA council to suspend Pakistan.

Some people were thinking that FIFA would form an interim committee following the suspension but that is not going to be the case. FIFA has decided to go by its rules and there is no chance that it would show flexibility.

Pakistan has not featured in any international event for the last two and a half years because of the conflict between two groups over electoral issues.

The other day I asked FIFA whether any interim committee would be constituted following the suspension. Its spokesman said: “Read the press release which we have issued to you.” And this is a clear indication that FIFA’s stance is final.

How can the issue be resolved? Nobody knows what should be done now as on one hand there is law of the land and on the other hand there are FIFA rules. FIFA is the biggest financier of Pakistan’s football.

My sources told me that the other day that in the general body meeting of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) in Lahore the matter was discussed after former PFF secretary Hafiz Salman Butt requested it to play its role in the resolution of the dispute. Salman, a seasoned politician who is in the PFF’s rival group, wants NOC to meet both the groups.

Salman belongs to the group which revolted against the then FIFA-recognised PFF. He is part of NOC general council as an individual member.

The other day the federal minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Riaz Hussain Pirzada told me that his ministry would act after the court’s decision. He said that his ministry plans to send its secretary and POA’s chief Lt Gen (retd) Arif Hasan to Zurich to negotiate with FIFA.

He reiterated that his ministry and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) have no role in the matter. “We are still out of it,” he said.

When I asked if FIFA did not accept the court’s decision, he said it would then be difficult. The court has resumed its proceedings.

FIFA’s suspension orders have disappointed the ranks of footballers. Some of them are considering launching a vigorous campaign for protecting their rights. There is a need for players and coaches to have an association through which they can protect their rights.

I feel that the matter could have been resolved in the first year of the dispute had FIFA’s decision been accepted.

FIFA gave weightage to the rival group by meeting it in Lahore, but the group did not accept the world body’s decision, which soured the situation, ultimately damaging the careers of the players.

Still there is a shortcut towards the resolution of the dispute and that is a compromise between the two groups. It’s not easy but can be made possible if the Prime Minister takes an initiative.

Our media, particularly TV channels, should give some time to the issue as it has destroyed the careers of the footballers.

Football is a very important sport in Pakistan as the country is brimming with talent. Efforts should be made to keep the sport away from political influence as it has been a major obstruction. The PFF Congress should be supreme. Had the PFF Congress been powerful such problems would not have been created.

And the charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) teaches us the same lesson. Let’s serve our players and the game instead of becoming slaves to our own vested interests.

By Alam Zeb Safi – The News