by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: Pakistan women’s national football team is set to be the most immediate beneficiary of the lifting of the suspension placed on the Pakistan Football Federation by the game’s global body FIFA.
Pakistan’s agonising 15-month suspension was lifted last week with FIFA also extending the mandate of the PFF Normalisation Committee, meaning the national team can return to international competitions.
The first upcoming competition is the South Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship, slated to be held in Nepal from Aug 29. Nepal were confirmed as hosts for the tournament, which runs until Sept 10, at SAFF’s Ordinary Congress in Dhaka last week.
“We have asked PFF to send the entry form by Friday for our consideration,” SAFF general secretary Anwarul Haque Helal told Dawn on Tuesday, when asked if the door for participation was still open for Pakistan.
PFF NC chairman Haroon Malik did not respond to a query from Dawn asking whether the entry for the tournament was being sent. NC member Shahid Khokar, however, told Dawn that there “was a strong possibility that the national team will take part in the SAFF Women’s Championship.”
In a post on its official social media page earlier on Tuesday, the PFF NC said that its officials had held a meeting with the SAFF secretary to discuss the team’s participation in the tournament.
“Normalisation Committee members of Pakistan Football Federation had a meeting with SAFF General Secretary to discuss the possibility of possible participation of the Pakistan Women’s National Team in the upcoming SAFF Women’s Championship,” it read.
“PFF NC is going to send the teams for participation in several SAFF events scheduled for later this year after FIFA ended Pakistan Football Federation’s suspension.”
Pakistan was suspended by FIFA in April last year after the PFF NC was ousted from the PFF headquarters by a group of officials led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, who was elected president in a PFF poll held by the Supreme Court which was never recognised by FIFA.
The NC returned to office in March this year but the ban stayed as the accounts were still not in its control. However, the suspension was lifted after the NC arranged for another way to obtain funding from FIFA as the court case regarding the accounts is still being heard.
Pakistan football has been hit by crisis and controversy in the PFF since 2015, which finally forced FIFA to appoint a Normalisation Committee in September 2019.
It has meant that appearances for its national teams at international events have been sporadic. And while the men’s team has found some action during the intervening years, the women’s team hasn’t played a single match since the PFF dispute first broke out.
Participation in the Nepal tournament could mean that there is an entirely new football team to the one that last played. The PFF NC will have to quickly make coaching appointments as well has hold trials and camps with the women’s players being out of action for so long.
“The modalities will be decided in due course,” Khokar added.
The National Women’s Championship was underway in March last year when the takeover of the PFF headquarters saw the suspension being slapped on Pakistan.