Back on track [TNS]

Back on track [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

Pakistan’s football seems to be on the right track again following a year-long hiatus. A delegation of the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee is in Doha these days. It attended the FIFA Congress on March 31.

A voting was held during FIFA Congress on Pakistan’s suspension and 195 nations voted in favour of restoring Pakistan’s membership once the pertinent requirements have been fulfilled. It means in the next few days Pakistan’s membership will be restored and international football will be resumed.

Pakistan was suspended by FIFA in the first week of April last year, days after the Ashfaq group occupied FIFA Football House in Lahore which is the secretariat of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).

It’s a huge development. According to a source in the NC delegation currently in Doha, they held meetings with many nations and discussed with them mutual football relations. The source said that all these nations want to see Pakistan’s football back on track.

The NC delegation was also scheduled to meet the chiefs of FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to discuss with them the football situation in Pakistan.

The NC also is willing to invite some countries to Pakistan this year for international friendlies in order to inject a new soul into the dead body of the most sought-after sport. It has been learnt that a very fruitful discussion was held with Lithuania and it could be invited in near future. Similarly, discussions were held with the South Asian nations, Palestine and Oman.

The delegation, headed by NC chairman Haroon Malik, is happy that eventually Pakistan’s football is now again in the headlines for some positive reasons.

Before moving to Doha, NC’s top officials were busy bringing the PFF headquarters into a proper shape.

After the ban is lifted, the NC will have to go for the PFF elections straight away. In the previous letter written to NC by FIFA, the world body advised it to go immediately for club scrutiny and registration once the suspension was lifted. It’s a hard task for the NC and there are several complications on the road to elections. The NC must have discussed the election matters with FIFA and AFC top officials in Doha.

After club registration and scrutiny the next step will be to hold elections at the district and provincial level before going for the PFF elections. The electoral list will be a huge issue, especially after the government abolished departmental competitions. It will be interesting to see how the NC handles this matter.

The country’s volatile political situation may also affect the electoral process. But it should be kept in mind that this is the last chance for the NC to dispose of the election matters.

The NC has been in office for the last three years but it has done nothing towards elections. Now besides handling day to day football affairs, the NC will have to completely focus on the election matter of the PFF which is very important.

The NC should remain within its domain and dispose of the election matter as soon as possible. Any further delay is not in the best interest of Pakistan football which has faced huge damages during the last seven years in which the country was suspended twice.

Besides the electoral process, the NC will need to announce the football calendar for 2022 during which it will have to hold the National Football Challenge Cup and the Premier League. The NC will also have to ensure Pakistan’s participation in international events. Pakistan will miss the Asian Games in China this summer as its entry is now not possible as per a source of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA). The entry by sport expired in February 2021.

But in other international events it must field its teams (men and women). The NC should keep footballers active which will give financial relief to them and their families. They have suffered massive financial damages during the last few years.

Hope football will now start making headlines for the right reasons following a long break.

Published in The News, 3 April 2022