Football education vital for developing the sport in Pakistan: AFC deputy secretary general [Dawn]

Football education vital for developing the sport in Pakistan: AFC deputy secretary general [Dawn]

by Umaid Wasim

DOHA: As the officials of the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee arrived at the swanky Four Seasons hotel here on Wednesday, former PFF chief Faisal Saleh Hayat made his way out.

Hayat’s involvement in the Qatari capital came to an end as soon as the Executive Committee meeting of the Asian Football Confederation, where he remains a vice-president, finished.

For the next two days, it will be the FIFA-appointed NC members — chairman Haroon Malik alongside Shahid Khokar and Haris Azmat — representing Pakistan.

First the NC members attend the FIFA Congress on Thursday before the 2022 FIFA World Cup draw a day later in what will be the biggest gathering of football leaders and team officials in Qatar almost seven months before football’s showpiece tournament kicks off.

During Hayat’s time as president from 2003 until the appointment of the NC in 2019, the PFF had set about its ‘Vision 2022’ plan which it hoped would see Pakistan qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

As of now, even the next World Cup — the expanded 48-team tournament in 2026 — and the one after that look like a distant dream.

Pakistan remains suspended by FIFA after the NC was forced out of office in March last year by a group of officials led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, who was elected PFF president in polls held by the Supreme Court which were never accepted by the global football body.

With the help of the government, the NC has returned to office but the suspension will only be lifted once the accounts are back in control of the Malik-led committee.

Having taken over the PFF headquarters, citing that the NC wasn’t keen on holding fresh elections of the country’s football governing body, Ashfaq and his officials’ released call recordings which were on a seized laptop of an official appointed by the NC that presented damning evidence of the level of intrigue that was going on.

But with the NC back in the PFF headquarters, AFC’s deputy secretary-general Vahid Kardany is fully backing its current members to deliver the elections but said “football education” is vital for such incidents of phone calls being recorded don’t happen again.

“That’s exactly what the AFC is aiming for with its football management diploma programme,” Kardany told Dawn after the AFC ExCo meeting.

“It trains officials who are better-educated and better-equipped to work at football federations. It starts from the officials … if they know about football and are driven by it, then these things don’t happen.”

The NC has given the government an eight-month roadmap to hold elections once the FIFA suspension is lifted. But many don’t see them happening.

Kardany, though, said that the NC should be given full support to complete its mandate.

“It has our full support,” he said. “And it’s key that the NC is supported by football officials in Pakistan as it will only help in getting the elections done and over with.”

Kardany added that once the newly-elected federation takes over, the AFC is willing to play a vital role in developing football in Pakistan.

“Football has gone backwards rather than forwards in Pakistan,” he said. “Once the newly-elected body comes in, not only will the grants resume for Pakistan but also crucially, we will try to educate officials in Pakistan to become better leaders. That’s crucial if you want to grow the game in the country.”

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2022