Three years on the sidelines for Pakistan’s ‘oppressed’ footballers [SAMAA]

Three years on the sidelines for Pakistan’s ‘oppressed’ footballers [SAMAA]

by Muneeb Farrukh

In a country with ever-growing interest in football, it has been three years since Pakistan last participated in an international match.

When Pakistan men’s side lost to Cambodia in the first round, June 11, 2019, of the AFC Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, nobody would have thought it would be Green Shirts’ last appearance on the football field for the next three years but here we are.

Mismanagement in the Pakistan Football Federation, government intervention in the sport and the consequent FIFA ban, since April 2021, has severely affected the game in the country.

Speaking exclusively to SAMAA Digital, Pakistan’s star midfielder Saadullah Khan was disheartened by the current state of football.

“I cry when I see the standard in which our international players are currently playing locally. For God’s sake, football players are like your children. Pakistan Football Society is facing a lot of oppression,” said Khan.

“Three years have passed and no one cares about our children who are involved in football and who are employed in football,” he added.

The 28-year-old also claimed that a “mafia” is destroying football in Pakistan while also expressing his disappointment about “silence” over the matter from some segments of the media.

“Some people like you support us but it seems that the rest of the news channels have joined the mafia. Nobody talks [about Pakistan football],” he said.

“Please raise your voice about those who do not want football in Pakistan and expose those slaves. They are spoiling Pakistan football and destroying the future of our children. Why is everyone silent? I am very sad,” he further stated.

The FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee (NC) is currently in charge of football, since June 2019, in Pakistan, however it has faced resistance from warring PFF factions repeatedly. This also led to last year’s hostile takeover of the PFF, followed by the FIFA suspension, and multiple court cases.

According to the mandate given by FIFA, the NC’s main task is to organise the elections at district followed by provincial levels and conduct the elections of a new PFF executive committee. With the process dragging on, the footballers will continue to suffer in Pakistan.

Despite regaining control of PFF headquarters in March, earlier, this year, the NC has not been able to get things back on track due to lack of access to bank accounts and the case is currently being contested in Lahore’s Civil Court. The verdict was set to be given during the last hearing, on June 4, but the judge went on vacation which delayed the process even further.

However, Saadullah is hopeful that the bank accounts issue will be resolved next month.

“Haroon Malik has worked really hard for the revival of football in Pakistan but FIFA NC can’t conduct football activities unless they have access to bank accounts. I’m hopeful that the accounts will be handed over till July. Pakistan football society is eagerly waiting for next month’s good news,” he concluded.

Published on SAMAA Sports, 11 June 2022