The unending saga of Pakistan football [TNS]

The unending saga of Pakistan football [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

Pakistan football issue has taken a new twist. It now seems that it is not easy to resolve the issue which has inflicted an unprecedented damage on the country’s football. The audio tapes retrieved by the Ashfaq group from the laptop of the PFF Director Finance Adnan Sadiq have exposed people in the FIFA-installed Normalisation Committee, the PFF secretariat and some other related persons with vested interests.

The disclosure has also left a deep question mark on the role of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA which have failed to handle Pakistan’s issue adroitly and have complicated the matter further.

In order to get the PFF headquarters vacated and an electoral process initiated, the federal minister for IPC Dr Fehmida Mirza met with most of the stakeholders and Normalisation Committee but the disclosure of the audio tapes and documents may affect that effort. According to the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Director General Col (retd) Asif Zaman the government is set to write a letter to FIFA and he hopes that the issue will be resolved soon.

But in my opinion it is no longer an easy matter and the new development has really hurt the people related to football.

The Ashfaq group has also forwarded details of all the new disclosure which carries “corruption efforts, illegal orders, influencing NC’s works, manipulation of the electoral process and questionable NC members’ appointment procedure” and some other serious matters.

The big thing which has surfaced through the audio tape recordings is that there was no discipline in the NC’s working during the last 18 months.

When FIFA Congress ratified the PFF suspension on May 21, the NC stated that it was because of its positive steps that Pakistan avoided tougher sanctions. It was an effort to misguide the people. Congress’s ratification of the PFF suspension was a routine matter and there was no hand of NC in that. FIFA and AFC should take the audio tapes seriously. It has stuff not only for AFC and FIFA but also for the FIA. No one has the right to play with the careers of footballers and delay the election process. Their voices have already been choked as no footballer of the mainstream can speak in the media openly about what happened to his future. Coaches are silent and so are the other officials. They have no associations to stand by them in this critical phase of their lives.

FIFA has now suspended Pakistan and already stated that the suspension will be lifted when the NC writes to the world body that it has regained access to the PFF headquarters.

The issue is that the way FIFA is making an effort to bring in normalisation in Pakistan football is not appropriate. It has also damaged the world body’s reputation and the AFC fame. The NC’s work was not properly monitored and controlled and that is why the committee did not do anything towards the PFF elections. Any person or persons in NC should not have commercial interests. The only solution which is seen appropriate at this level is to recompose NC, bring in a consensus candidate as NC’s chairman, announce complete electoral procedure, take all stakeholders into confidence and ensure clean and transparent electoral process. Until now nobody knows what FIFA wants to do.

Has FIFA authorised Haroon Malik to change the statutes which is only the domain of the PFF Congress? There is no room for rigged elections as people in Pakistan’s football politics know what is being planned.

The AFC should clarify who Mohsin Gilani is, which association he represents in Pakistan and what he does here. The AFC should listen to his audio recordings. If the state cannot interfere and FIFA has suspended Pakistan then the question arises: who will resolve this issue? FIFA should reply.

It’s time for all our national footballers to fight for their rights. The game which is the bread and butter of millions of people in Pakistan needs to be restored without any further delay.

Prime Minister Imran Khan should take note of the matter and play his neutral role and help restore normalcy.

The best second option is that we should not wait for AFC and FIFA to resolve our matter. We should make an in-house effort and find ways to resolve this issue. Nothing is difficult if we get united, kick-out all outsiders, re-group and pave the way for fresh elections. Let’s forget our past differences, sit on a negotiating table and make our own house correct.

Published in The News on Sunday, 30 May 2021