A blow or a blessing in disguise? [TNS]

A blow or a blessing in disguise? [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

As was expected FIFA suspended Pakistan’s membership the other day, for the second time in three years. It’s a real blow but at the same time may be a blessing in disguise as things can be corrected now.

Somehow a hope of Pakistan’s international engagement was there as the Normalisation Committee had announced programmes for both men’s and women’s teams. The Premier League was also being planned. But yes, this major blow was expected following Ashfaq group’s reassuming the charge.

As the group had formed PFF in the elections held under the orders of the Supreme Court in December 2018, no one can call it an illegal federation as far as the law of the land is concerned. It is another thing that FIFA does not recognise this federation. And that is why FIFA in its communication also mentioned third party’s interference. Some people use the term “illegal occupants” for Ashfaq group which may go against them as it’s a legal matter.

I must say that FIFA and AFC have badly failed in normalising the situation in Pakistan. Why these two bodies could not perform effectively is a big question. For correcting a mess you need to take stiff and fair decisions. If you are unable to do so you will find yourselves in deep trouble. FIFA once again put pressure on Pakistan by suspending its membership. It’s an easy decision. The disappointing thing is that the world body formed a Normalisation Committee, it spent money on it but there was no outcome even though the NC remained in office for 19 months.

FIFA kept on extending its mandate without asking it what it has done. Both FIFA and AFC can succeed in bringing normalisation in Pakistan football if they appoint the right people and keep an eye on them. One and a half years is a long time. The NC members made money, divided the football fraternity and went home without delivering. They should be made accountable for every penny they have spent, for creating more mess than was already there, and for failure to deliver. FIFA should assess why the Ashfaq group re-assumed its administrative charge. And it should read why Ashfaq group had given NC charge in September 2019. FIFA made huge blunders in selecting the members of NC and in monitoring the situation.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino should ask its Member Association’s wing why it failed to deliver in Pakistan. It is ridiculous. Why is our football being destroyed? This is unacceptable for us. FIFA should unconditionally lift suspension, install a completely different NC with a towering and fair personality as its chairman who should know each and everything about Pakistan football and go for holding the PFF elections within six months.

I hope the Ashfaq group will also agree if FIFA shows grace. The new NC should keep its direction straight. It should go by the book and hold elections according to the 2015 list. If there are issues, the new elected body will revise the statutes. Let the elected PFF correct the system. An NC chairman cannot correct it. If anyone tries to correct it at this stage, he will have to fight battles in courts as many people can challenge various decisions. So it would be better to hold elections by following the PFF Constitution. Even FIFA cannot do anything in these legal matters. It is the sole prerogative of the PFF Congress to make any amendment to its legal document.

Both Humza Khan and Haroon Malik failed to deliver. Let’s try a person with some good reputation to handle the situation. A consensus candidate should be the NC chairman as without taking stakeholders into confidence again in bringing in an NC chairman we will find ourselves in deep quagmire.

The state also needs to play a role, not as a party but as a neutral force which is the requirement of the situation if we are to correct our football in which we have immense potential.

The Ashfaq group, having the Supreme Court mandate, may go to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). Ashfaq-led PFF vice-president Naveed Haider has said CAS may be an option. “Our group can go to CAS,” Naveed told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS).

“Why FIFA and AFC failed. They were supervising all the events in Pakistan so why were they quiet for 15 months? On what grounds did they accept Humza Khan’s resignation and dissolve the NC? We want answers,” Naveed said.

“But first we want a negotiated settlement with FIFA and AFC. Our group is being wrongly accused and branded as illegal occupants of Football House. We have a mandate from the Supreme Court of Pakistan. FIFA may have their reservations but they should at least give respect to our highest judicial body,” Naveed said.

“What actions are they taking against the wrongdoings and incompetency of their appointed PFF NC chairman and members? It was AFC president Sheikh Salman’s responsibility to ensure neutrality.

“I appeal to the President AFC to play his role and have a dialogue with Ashfaq Shah group and other stakeholders to resolve this long standing issue,” he said.

“The AFC being our Confederation has better knowledge and understanding of PFF issues. PFF NC should be reconstituted by taking all stakeholders into confidence.

“PFF NC should be asked to only conduct PFF elections in a fair and transparent manner as per the laid out Statutes of PFF Constitution.

“All genuine and registered football clubs and districts should be brought into the PFF net. All bogus clubs should be eliminated from the system through a strict scrutiny process,” Naveed said.

“Reputable and experienced coaches, referees, former international players and honest persons should be tasked to carry out the registration and scrutiny process,” he added.

Meanwhile, a former PFF Congress member Syed Zahir Shah told TNS that FIFA in future should recompose NC and appoint such a person as its chairman who is strong enough to tackle the things boldly.

Shah said that the government also should play its role in the resolution of the dispute which is detrimental for the country’s football, players and their families who are suffering.

Shah said that only PFF Congress can change the statutes and NC should not get itself entangled in those matters.


Published in The News on Sunday, 11 April 2021