Parochial approach hurting national footballers [TNS]

Parochial approach hurting national footballers [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

No positive development has happened on any front as far as the resolution of Pakistan’s football issue is concerned. The IPC minister Dr Fehmida Mirza has held meetings with various stakeholders and the Normalisation Committee but so far we don’t know about the outcome of her struggle as a mediator.

FIFA has already suspended Pakistan. It is clear that the world body will never deviate from its stance that unless NC regains its access to the PFF headquarters and accounts, which are in the possession of Ashfaq group, suspension will not be lifted.

I have learnt that NC has prepared an election roadmap and is willing to share it with the IPC Ministry provided the ministry took a step to invite NC members for a meeting.

The role of football stakeholders is extremely disappointing. No one feels pain for footballers and controlling the federation is their only priority.

The NC chairman Haroon Malik’s role was also not good in the aftermath of the suspension. He returned to Canada and has settled there with peace, waiting for a mysterious hand to get the PFF headquarters vacated for him. He has played no role so far in normalising the situation.

And this is a big negative of FIFA’s step to appoint such a person as NC chairman who is also a Canadian national. How can a person, who holds dual nationality, feel any real pain for football and footballers of the country of his origin?

He should have shown flexibility and it was the only way he could succeed in regaining the PFF headquarters. He has been found arrogant. Some members of the NC, I would not name any, want an amicable solution to the issue. They want to see football back in the country. A few days ago I asked a senior football stakeholder with a huge reputation how the issue could be resolved, he kept silent and did not reply. It’s hypocrisy.

The PFF is a national asset and we are to protect it. Unless fair and transparent elections are held the issue cannot be resolved.

The NC’s mandate will expire on June 30. But sources told me that FIFA is ready to extend its mandate. It is expected that NC will be given six more months. Let’s see how FIFA deals with the matter. I hope sanity prevails among stakeholders and they take a positive step towards the resolution of the dispute.

The Ashfaq group has announced plans to hold the Premier League. I have learnt that participating teams have started their training for the league which is expected to begin at the end of July.

The league is very important for the job protection of the players. I have learnt that players’ annual contracts were renewed only after some departments got the circular regarding the league. So it’s very important to keep domestic events going.

With the PFF’s accounts already frozen through court orders, it will have to be seen how the Ashfaq group will meet the expenses of the league. It is a four-month journey and is a resource-intensive exercise. Although departmental teams meet their own expenses, the organisers still need a hefty amount to spend on various other matters of the league including prize money.

The Premier League was last held in 2018-2019. A major part of that league had been held by Faisal-led PFF, who was recognised by FIFA, and the last phase of it had been conducted by the Ashfaq group which had formed the PFF through elections conducted under the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Sources told me that despite being issued a warning by NC, departmental teams have decided to field their teams in the Premier League. The NC should note that if it is unable to normalise the situation then it should not create any hurdle in the way of domestic events.

In 2018-2019, too, two federations completed the Premier League and no department pulled out of the final phase which was conducted by the Ashfaq-led PFF. It would be much better if those teams also took part in the Premier League which qualified for the country’s prime event through the 2019 Qualifiers. The organisers should sit with them and resolve their issues.

It would not be right to ignore the deserving teams which want to contribute more in the country’s football development. The Ashfaq group is expected to hold a commercial league also in near future and work is being done in that direction, it has been learnt.

Published in The News on Sunday, 27 June 2021