by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: Once again, the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour will come to Pakistan while the country remains under suspension from the world’s football governing body.
World sport’s most iconic trophy is due to arrive in Islamabad on June 7 ahead of this year’s World Cup in November-December in Qatar, following on from its first tour of Pakistan four years ago.
Then, the overall six-month suspension on the PFF was lifted just over a month after the trophy’s arrival.
By the end of this month, the current suspension period will reach 14 months as the FIFA-appointed Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee continues its long-running struggle to regain its assets.
It already has the PFF headquarters back — the takeover of which by a group of officials led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah in March last year saw FIFA suspend Pakistan.
But the legal fight to get back control of the PFF accounts continues.
At the FIFA Congress in Doha in March, 195 FIFA members voted on the suspension on Pakistan to remain until all prerequisites are met.
It also empowered the Bureau of the FIFA Council to lift the suspension as soon as the conditions are met.
The wait for that goes on and while the Haroon Malik-led NC got the PFF headquarters thanks to support of the previous federal government, there has been a change in the government and so far, there have been no talks between the NC and the incumbent government to expedite the situation.
Sources confirmed to Dawn that NC chairman Haroon hasn’t been at the PFF headquarters since the end of March, before the PFF NC travelled for the FIFA Congress.
Haroon did not respond to Dawn on Thursday after he was asked about when he last visited the PFF headquarters.
All that has seen the Normalisation process seemingly stall, adding to the crisis that has afflicted Pakistan football since 2015.
“FIFA has no comment,” a spokesperson of the global football body told Dawn last week when asked if it had raised any concerns to the PFF NC regarding the time it is taking to regain the assets.
WORLD CUP TROPHY TOUR
There has also been a change in the focal person the PFF NC was reporting its progress to in FIFA.
Laura Dijak, who was previously looking at PFF matters, has left her role as FIFA’s senior member associations governance manager to take the role as managing director at the Football Business Academy.
Now, Rolf Tanner — the head of member associations governance — is looking after Pakistan.
It is amid that situation that the World Cup trophy will arrive in the country next month with Pakistan being one of the 51 countries it will visit this time around.
As is the norm, in every country it travels to alongside a former World Cup winner, it is welcomed by the football federation of that respective country.
FIFA did not comment on whether PFF NC officials will be there to welcome it, or accompany it on its travels to different locations in Islamabad.
“Following the successful stop of the tour in 2018, we look forward to an equally successful event on June 7 in Pakistan,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Wednesday night. “As it was the case in 2018, the legend visiting Pakistan will be Christian Karembeu.”
Dawn sought a further comment from FIFA on whether there would be any involvement of the PFF NC during the Trophy Tour but did not receive a reply till the filing of this report.
Despite the suspension on Pakistan, PFF NC officials did attend the FIFA World Cup draw in Qatar last month, held a day after the FIFA Congress.
The PFF NC officials, though, were not in attendance at the virtual Congress of the Asian Football Confederation on Wednesday.
Dawn has reliably learnt that the PFF NC officials were invited to attend the AFC Congress as observers and all documentation pertaining to decisions taken during the annual meeting, were sent to them. But due to the suspension, the PFF did not have any voting right.
Haroon did not respond to Dawn when asked whether any PFF NC member attended the AFC Congress as an observer.
Back on the ground, officials of the Ashfaq group, who came into power after PFF elections were held by the Supreme Court in December 2018 — nine months before FIFA eventually decided to install the NC, are pursuing a legal case to make sure of an order that binds the PFF NC to hold fresh elections within a stipulated time.
In order to gain control of the PFF headquarters, the NC had given the government a roadmap to hold elections within eight months following the lifting of the FIFA suspension.
After it was handed back control in March, there was growing optimism that the situation would be resolved very soon. That, however, is diminishing with every passing day.