Waiting for the verdict [The News on Sunday]

Waiting for the verdict [The News on Sunday]

by Alam Zeb Safi

All stakeholders of national football must be impatiently waiting for the decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC) division bench which a few days ago reserved its judgment in Pakistan Football Federation case.

The Supreme Court in April last year had advised the bench to decide the case on merit. It indeed will be a decision of great significance. It is hoped that the court would give such a verdict which would end the long deadlock and help resume football activities — suspended since April 2015 when the conflict emerged as a result of the controversial elections of Punjab Football Association (PFA).

Thousands of footballers and their families have been suffering for around three years because of a lack of activities.

No Pakistan team has toured abroad during this period. The age-group national teams have been hurt the most. The game has lost the space which it had acquired in the corporate sector.

There is every chance that the case may get prolonged as any group may go to the Supreme Court.

FIFA, in October last year, suspended Pakistan because it thought that it could be the only way to put some pressure on the country to address its issues.

During the last three years no party involved in the conflict showed any concern for the players and their families. This is the real face of our sports officials. They are selfish and don’t care about the players through whom they acquire top seats in federations and international bodies.

The role of the government and the military in sports politics has also been damaging. But the irony of the situation is that the officials grab top seats through the aid of the government or the military, but when they are dismissed they start talking about international rules and regulations.

Today football is in trouble. Other federations may find themselves in such a quagmire tomorrow. Unless we rectify our sports system such issues would keep emerging.

The Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) and Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) are waiting for the LHC decision. They say they will play their role in getting the suspension lifted after the court verdict.

During the last few days I have chatted with Pakistan’s foreign coaches and they are surprised with the things that have happened to our football.

“It means football has been killed,” a coach said in his message.

Another coach said: “There is great talent in Pakistan but it is the system which is damaging the sport.”

In order to avoid such issues in future the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) would need to have a stronger Congress. There should not be any room in Congress for those who don’t know the game. The PFF Congress has been dominated by “yes men” for years. How can the Congress legislate effectively if it is full of stooges of some influential person!

It is yet premature to say anything about what FIFA would say after the court decision. FIFA in its suspension note said that it would not be lifted unless the PFF headquarters and its accounts were handed over to the PFF led by Faisal Saleh Hayat.

In a nutshell it is expected that the court’s decision will help in the resolution of the long-standing football dispute. After cricket, football is the biggest crowd-puller in the country and so every effort must be made to prevent it from being affected by such disputes in future.

Published in The News on Sunday, 21 January 2018