Pakistan football’s murky scene [TNS]

Pakistan football’s murky scene [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

And finally under the instructions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan the control of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) was on December 31, 2018, handed over to the newly-elected Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).

The officials of the newly-elected body, being headed by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, still say that they are yet to get some documents from the FIFA-recognised PFF.

The situation will become clear in the next few days.

The new body started working soon after taking over the control of the PFF headquarters. The Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) also came in their possession. And the new body on Thursday announced the local organising committee (LOC) which comprises Nasir Karim (chairman), Ali Bahar (vice-chairman), Taha Ali Zai, Zabe Khan, Ahmed Jan and Jamil Hoate (all members).

Omar Zia has been appointed as manager competition and PFF coordinator. On the very next day after taking control, Ashfaq also took formal charge.

If we look at the law of the land then Ashfaq-led body is the ruling PFF in the country as the PFF elections were held under the instructions of the Supreme Court.

But the same body will not be able to work internationally because FIFA does not recognise it. As FIFA offices are closed until January 7 due to annual leave it is not possible to receive any fresh information from there in the meantime. But FIFA had already said that Pakistan might face sanctions if the court-ordered elections were held.

Ashfaq wrote a letter to the AFC on December 26, 2018, in which he requested the continental body to send a fact-finding delegation to Pakistan.

The AFC rejected it on the ground that it recognises FIFA Association Committee’s decision taken on September 26, 2018, regarding Pakistan and so will only work with the Faisal Saleh Hayat-led PFF.

This has indeed made the situation complicated. FIFA-recognised PFF intends to file for review in the Supreme Court.

It is quite clear that Pakistan now will not be able to appear in any international event unless FIFA decides something about the issue.

This year Pakistan team was scheduled to feature in the Olympic qualifiers, World Cup qualifiers, South Asian Games, and four home and away series against Philippines, Afghanistan, Singapore and Lebanon. The under-16 team was to tour Japan and the women team was to feature in SAFF Championship.

Pakistan has already suffered a lot because of the litigation. Pakistan had returned to international circuit after a three-year gap in August this year when the nation participated in the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia. Soon afterwards Pakistan featured in the SAFF Cup in Dhaka and finished third.

Pakistan played against Palestine on November 16 in Al-Ram and then played a few matches in Qatar last month in order to prepare for this year’s Olympic and World Cup qualifiers.

Another halt to Pakistan’s international exposure for an indefinite period will again hurt the country’s football.

Pakistan’s sports have been highly politicised. The whole history of our sports shows that federations, particularly the most powerful ones, are formed through political influence.

FIFA will need to play a key role in the resolution of Pakistan’s football. It had given its affiliated association headed by Faisal time until March 2020 with the instructions to revise its constitution and hold fresh elections.

There is a great need to eliminate the political influence and to place a strong accountability system. The long conflict between the two groups has divided Pakistan’s football fraternity.

After taking over control of the PPFL the new body faced a body blow when those referees and match commissioners who were working with the FIFA-recognised body decided to quit. They said that they respect the Supreme Court but cannot go against FIFA and AFC. The new, ill-prepared referees have taken over the league which will conclude on January 13.

With Pakistan already out of the AFC Cup this year due to club licensing issue, the ongoing league’s status is now itself an issue if we look at it through the FIFA and the AFC perspectives.

It is now confirmed that in the current situation Pakistan would not be able to feature in international events as FIFA-recognised PFF has ceased to control its accounts and headquarters.

The newly-elected body should work vigorously for keeping the sport alive on the domestic front. Otherwise departments will start thinking of disbanding their teams.

Ashfaq, an engineer by profession, told me on December 31 that he would give enough time to football. He said that he loved the game and would like to strengthen it from the grassroots level. He also dispelled the impression that he would be leading different groups as the PFF chief.

“Amir Dogar is my friend and brother and we are one and will work jointly for the betterment of Pakistan’s football,” Ashfaq said.

Ashfaq is the brother-in-law of the new body’s vice-president Zahir Shah. He is also the brother-in-law of former PFF Director Clubs and Projects Col Farasat Ali Shah. Farasat once had a leading role in the Arshad Lodhi and Zahir Shah group but he has stayed away for quite some time due to his illness. Naveed Haider, a former ally of Faisal, was the main architect behind the emergence of Amir Dogar group which later joined hands with the Arshad Lodhi-Zahir Shah group.

The new body is yet to appoint its secretary. It is evident that the secretary would be from the Dogar group. Naveed even told me in an interview that they would be going to form a Supreme Council which would comprise the PFF president and three vice-presidents. He said that the council would take major decisions. Ashfaq and his three vice-presidents are expected to meet at the PFF headquarters on Monday to discuss important matters and future course of action.

A new body has been formed but it is not yet clear for how long. Whenever result of any national or international federation is announced the tenure is clearly written in the notification. But here we miss this clause in case of the newly-elected body. Ashfaq should explain this.

If the things went in the wrong direction it would hurt 80,000 registered players of the country and their families. I hope the things go in right direction.

Published in The News on Sunday, 6 January 2019