by Alam Zeb Safi
Wasting around six initial months the FIFA-appointed PFF Normalisation Committee has put the country’s football future in a highly uncertain state. Although the NC has got six months extension until December 31, 2020, from FIFA to hold the PFF elections, it has done nothing praiseworthy in its ten months.
FIFA must look at the situation. Eying a huge funding in future, instead of holding the elections the NC has taken keen interest in holding events, managing foreign tours and other things which should not be its concern. The sooner it goes for holding elections and handing over the affairs to an elected body the better it will be for Pakistan football.
But I have found that the NC’s priorities are different. A few days ago I found the NC chairman Humza Khan highly confused at a virtual news conference. He did not give satisfactory answers to most of the questions he faced from the journalists.
He had held the briefing to announce the appointment of Spanish coach Daniel Limones as Director Technical for the next six months.
He said that they wanted to prepare a blue-print with the help of the Spanish and that the next elected body of the PFF would also benefit from that. He even said that people would ask the committee what it has done for football development in Pakistan.
I tell Humza that nobody is a fool in the football circle. You did not inform the media at your briefing that hiring a Director Technical at this stage was a requirement for FIFA funding. Unless you have a Director Technical and paid Secretary General you cannot get funding from the world body. You picked the Spanish for that purpose and everybody knows the links as people in your NC are closely connected with him. The whole secretariat staff is handpicked, including the Director Technical.
Once Humza told me in an interview that if they had advertised the positions vacant in PFF secretariat it would have been a waste of time. What have you done in the last ten months? Have you not wasted time?
Elections could have been held within the initial mandate of nine months had NC taken it seriously. COVID-19 is an excuse. Lockdown started in late March when you had spent around six months in office. Now you say that it all depends on the COVID-19 situation.
When I asked Humza about his elections plans he seemed totally blanked. He said that they would see when they could initiate club scrutiny. Clubs scrutiny is the first step and it may take huge time as there are thousands of clubs in the country. There are more than 800 clubs in Karachi alone.
I believe that scrutiny would not be that easy as NC may face huge obstructions because of its own behaviour and its likes and dislikes. This is not something that is concealed from the football lovers.
Humza said that he has in mind more different things for football development. He said people would ask him what he has done for football development. Humza, this is not your mandate. Your mandate is to hold elections and run day-to-day football affairs for a specific time-frame. Football development needs more time, not a few months and this job would be the responsibility of the elected body. It would be great if you just held the elections in a transparent manner.
There have been complaints from the federating units that NC is biased and is backing a particular group. If NC is not biased it should end the reservations of the affected stakeholders by holding a meeting with them so that a way could be paved for conducting club scrutiny fairly and holding elections at district, provincial and PFF levels.
During an email interaction with FIFA’s senior official Alex Gros recently I asked him whether PFF NC has taken stakeholders into confidence while forming provincial NCs. He refused to comment. Before that he gave me answers of other things including his frequent visits to Pakistan and his attending NC’s sessions through zoom. That reply created doubts in my mind. There is something wrong. Alex should explain to media how the things are going in Pakistan. Football has suffered a lot during the last five years. Alex should ensure that NC holds elections by December 30 at any cost. It will be highly unfortunate if elections are further delayed which seems likely because nothing concrete has been done.
Alex should also advise NC to resolve the issue of clubs of former tribal belt which is now a part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. FATA was an associate member of the PFF with only playing rights. It had no voting rights. After its merger in KP, which is a province, the clubs of the seven districts and former semi-tribal belt have demanded voting rights so that they could participate in the elections in KP at the district level.
While filing a story on the matter for ‘The News’ the other day, I sought comment from Humza on the issue but he did not respond which is not good behaviour on the part of the NC’s chairman.
Mr chairman, you have been handed the responsibility of running football affairs only for a specific time and I have been covering football for the last 20 years. Your post is equal to that of PFF president and you are accountable to everyone. I followed your media protocol by messaging my question to your media manager who then shared that with you for your input but still you opted to keep silent.
Football has been kept alive in Pakistan by a small group of reporters and I am one of them, having covered this sport in the country for the last two decades. I have covered all the leagues which have been conducted so far. So it’s not good. You should treat all stakeholders cautiously. Your protocol will be followed but media persons also have their own protocol and that should be respected.