Haroon confirms delay of Saff championship [Express Tribune]

Haroon confirms delay of Saff championship [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: The South Asian Football Federation (Saff) Championship is pushed by a week as the event is now chalked out to begin on September 6, in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee head Haroon Malik believes that the event is a great opportunity for women to showcase their talent.

Malik confirmed that the new dates for Saff Championship were decided by the Saff and communicated to the members on July 17. Earlier, the event was meant to begin from August 29 till September 10.

Nepal were confirmed as the hosts of the 13-day extravaganza at the Saff Congress that took place in Dhaka earlier this month.

“Yes, we can confirm the date to be September 6 till September 19. There was a delay. Earlier, the event was to start at the end of August,” Malik told The Express Tribune. “All India Football Federation sent a request to delay it by two weeks because they have their players engaged in the club championship. Bangladesh requested for a three-week delay but Nepal said that they can only delay it by a week.

“We told them that we are available and we are happy to accommodate when most members are available.”

This is the first time that the Pakistan women’s football team will participate in an international event since 2014, when they played Saff Championship in Islamabad. The instability and PFF crisis, courtesy the power-tussle among the officials who wanted to hold the offices while FIFA has banned the country twice since 2015 for third-party interference, was the reason Pakistan women didn’t play anywhere during the last eight years.

The odds are stacked up against Pakistan women’s side and they’ll be the same for the men’s team if they participate in any international event as the federation will need to form the teams from scratch due to prolonged inactivity at the international stage.

Pakistan may as well be the most vulnerable side as the task is to make a team for the event in 49 days, in which NC also needs to start preparing for the electoral process for the free and fair elections, do club scrutiny for it, which is a huge challenge in the face of no data-base from before and also form a disciplinary committee.

The Pakistan Sports Board are also keen on seeing the electoral process expedited, however, the lifting of the FIFA ban earlier in June means footballers want to finally get into the action.

“From the playing perspective, which is the national women’s team, it has been eight years. The question is how do we form the women’s team?” asked Malik.

“The national women’s championship happened [in 2021. right before the FIFA ban was imposed due to the third-party interference that stopped the NC from working], during that all the national C license coaches saw the players and shortlisted the most talented ones for the national camp. Besides that, we have a list for diaspora players and then emerging players that the coaches can submit. There is a pool of 64 players, and I truly believe that there are some great players out there,” said Malik.

And while the vulnerabilities and the challenges faced by the team are a reality, he added: “Right after the ban was lifted, the Saff Women’s Championship happened to be the first event and I consulted national players and they said that we should participate in it. We received a go-ahead and confirmations came in. I was committed that I want to make this happen.

“The female players have the opportunity to show how fantastic they are.”

Malik further informed that the coaches have a plan and the NC is finalizing the participation and preparation of the women’s team.

He added that player value and respect is important and they will be compensated handsomely for their participation in the sport.

“Football should be about the players, the coaches. They are the only one who matter and nobody else matters, even at the national championship. The idea is also for players to realise that they are the most important element,” said Malik.

Published in The Express Tribune, 19 July 2022