The football impasse [TNS]

The football impasse [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

It was expected that by February 17 Pakistan’s football matter would be resolved and the FIFA Football House would be handed over to the Normalisation Committee. However, it did not happen. Despite meetings of NC with the Board of Revenue Punjab the deadlock persists on a single point. It has been learnt that both parties (NC and Board of Revenue Punjab) will meet on Monday (tomorrow) to further discuss the point.

The issue is that last year the PFF secretariat’s lease agreement was cancelled because of certain violations by the PFF. It is now obligatory to sign a new agreement. There are certain complications created because of this issue which have made things difficult to resolve. And this is a big negative at a time when a hope had been created after the IPC Ministry held a news conference in Islamabad in which it was revealed that Football House would be handed over to NC.

The Ministry of IPC has already advised the Punjab government to hand over the PFF headquarters to the FIFA-appointed NC but the technical issues have complicated the matter. The Punjab government has informed the IPC Ministry about these complications.

In 2003, the Punjab government gave to the PFF 11 kanal, 7 marlas and 125 square foot land in Lahore on lease for 40 years for constructing the Football House. However, it has been learnt that the PFF had given on rent some portion of the headquarters in order to meet its administrative expenses. The federation was not entitled to sub-lease any portion as per agreement with the Punjab government.

I talked to a senior official of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) the other day and he was optimistic that the matter would be resolved soon.

As the matter relates to the future of Pakistan football and footballers, it would be great if the Punjab government took a generous step to get the matter resolved. There is no FIFA-recognised elected Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) working at the moment. It means that there is no Congress which can broker a deal with the Punjab government.

NC is a body appointed by FIFA and it does not have the powers of the Congress. So it would be a huge step from the Punjab government if it put off the lease matter and handed over the PFF headquarters to NC so that work can be started towards the elections of the PFF.

Any further delay will add to the miseries of footballers and their families who have been left penniless during the last six years.

There are around nine major international events ahead for which the nation will have to prepare and it will be possible only if the matter is resolved quickly. Any further complication will displease FIFA further and its consequence could be disastrous if the world football governing body took a stern action against Pakistan.

FIFA showed great patience during the last few years as the world’s strongest body was interested in resolving Pakistan’s issue. Even recently when the federal government intervened as a mediator, FIFA was happy that the state was going to play a role to pave the way for NC to regain access to the PFF headquarters which is a prerequisite for lifting suspension.

FIFA will not lift suspension unless the PFF headquarters is handed over to the NC. FIFA spent a huge amount on the construction of the PFF secretariat in Lahore. We should respect the world body which has spent a lot of money in Pakistan by constructing Football Houses around the country. It will not be a good step on the part of the Punjab government if it creates further issues which will further delay the electoral process of the PFF whose existence is absolutely necessary for the revival of football in the country.

In March last year Ashfaq Group occupied the PFF headquarters. In the first week of April FIFA suspended Pakistan’s membership for third party interference. On November 7, 2021, the Punjab government sealed the PFF headquarters because of lease issues. The House remains in its possession.

FIFA Football House Lahore is the only place with the PFF where national teams stay during training for international events because it has a decent hostel and other arrangements as well. So effort should be made by the Punjab government to ensure nothing is deducted from the facilities and the entire Football House is handed over to the NC.

During the last few years, I have seen that no one thinks about the footballers and their families who have faced huge financial damages because of the conflict. Keeping them in more agony may invite God’s wrath also. Let’s be generous towards the players who are the most precious assets of the country.

I also urge President Dr Arif Alvi and the premier Imran Khan to look into the matter and pave the way for its speedy resolution.

Published in The News on Sunday, 27 February 2022