Politics once again headlines Pakistan football [Express Tribune]

Politics once again headlines Pakistan football [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) had to come up with their political antics once again as the Pakistan Premier Football League (PFFL), which is taking place after three years, oddly kicks off in Multan, a city that has no team playing in the league at all.

The PFF general Secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi attended a press conference in Multan, where the latest edition of the Premier Football League will start on Tuesday, featuring 16 teams despite PFF reducing the teams to 12 for the 2014-15 season in order to improve the quality of the competition.

The PFF President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat was backed by FIFA while he had the court orders not to hold the PFF elections in June 2015, where he got elected for his fourth term as the PFF chief through a manipulated congress that has only one member actively associated with football.

Hayat had said that the previous government was trying to interfere in the PFF affairs and called out the government intervention, which also led FIFA to ban Pakistan in October last year, and the ban was lifted in March.

Hayat had been PFF president since 2003 and FIFA will be deciding on PFF’s fate on September 26 at the Members Association meeting.

Hayat, during his reign, has held football as a hostage for three years to stay in power at the federation, and made no efforts in solving the internal issues within the PFF, causing the interruption of footballing activities.

But now, PFF is supposedly pleasing the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s politician Amir Dogar who won the NA-155 (Multan II) seat, contradicting the very stance that the government should not be involved in any way.

With the local district football association also publicising the tournament as the Malik Salahuddin Dogar (late) 12th PPFL, which is not only odd for the national league to be named as but also suspicious as Salahuddin is Amir’s father.

The league is questionable now as the PFF tries to hold a one-off tournament where they have promoted four departmental teams to take part in the PPFL this time, to make up for the lost time during the last three years.

However, the PFF Division B league should be active and the top two teams from B Division League should get the promotion, but the random tournament to make way for four extra teams in the PPFL is also against the FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) rules.

The eight teams participated in the qualifying tournament and new departments Civil Aviation, Ashraf Sugar Mills, along with Division B teams Sui Southern Gas Company and Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited booked their place in the PPFL.

Meanwhile, having the starting venue in Multan would mean that the teams would have to travel to the city, depriving clubs like Balochistan’s Baloch FC Noshki, and Chaman sides Afghan FC and Muslim FC to have their fans cheering for them.

The question raises with the fact that if Multan can have the league matches without having any participants from their own city, why are football hubs like Chaman and Noshki being ignored as the venues, that draw out the biggest crowds for football.

The other two phases of PPFL will take place in Lahore and Karachi.

“We love football,” Balochistan Football Association official Nazar Muhammad told The Express Tribune. “When the PPFL matches used to take place in Balochistan they used to be huge because we only watch football. Baloch FC Noshki is the club in the country’s biggest league yes, but we obviously won’t be able to watch those matches.”

He added that the clubs in Balochistan are all self-financed.

“They don’t get anything from anyone, except there can be benefactors who would finance them, but we don’t have proper stadiums in Balochistan, the PFF doesn’t give anything, the government doesn’t do anything either. Having PPFL matches in the city would have been great but we are neglected, and we cover all the expenses of sending the teams,” said Muhammad.

The last season of PPFL took place in 2014-15 with K-Electric taking the title, while Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force finished second and third, respectively.

Published in The Express Tribune, 24 September 2018