Pak Football in 2022: From Ashes to a New Beginning [The Nation]

Pak Football in 2022: From Ashes to a New Beginning [The Nation]

by Azhar Khan

LAHORE – The year 2022 has remained peaks and valleys for Pakistan Football Federation (PFF). It saw Pakistan football from ashes and zero-activity to a new beginning.

The end of FIFA suspension on the federation, participation of national football men’s and women’s teams in international events, equal prize money for men and women football players, launch of FIFA Football Connect in Pakistan, and registration of football clubs under Pakistan Connect Program are some significant steps taken by the NC that paved way for the free and fair elections of the PFF.

Haroon Malik-led Normalisation Committee and its members Shahid Niaz Khokhar, Saud Hashmi and Haris Azmat remained firm in convincing the government to hand over the FIFA House back to its legitimate body. The NC’s international diplomatic efforts reflected well when 195 FIFA Member Associations’ voted in favour of lifting the suspension on the PFF by FIFA at its Congress in March 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

The PFF had been a controversial organization since 2015, wrought by the third-party interferences and FIFA doesn’t tolerate in the workings of its member associations, and urges them to work as independent bodies. The Pakistani footballers have missed international events that not only hurt their hopes but also left many of them jobless due to the closing of departmental teams in wake of the PFF crises.

The matters with the PFF started to look better with the reformation of FIFA’s Normalisation Committee again in January 2021. The end of the PFF suspension in July 2022 was the beginning of new and fresh era that saw Pakistani men and women footballers engaging them in fruitful football activities at national and international level.

The priority of the PFF soon after its appointment remained to resume the work on the national teams and prepare them for international events. The announcement of restoration of football activities and participation of the Women’s Team in the SAFF Championship in Nepal in September 2022 put a new life in Pakistan football.

This was for the first time in eight years that Pakistan women’s team participated in an international activity as they last played during the 2014 SAFF Women’s Championship, hosted by Pakistan. Although, the women team couldn’t up to the mark, yet they played well against Maldives and thumped them by 7-0. On their return, the women team was accorded a rousing welcome. Soon after the women team’s participation in the SAFF, the men’s team played a friendly match against Nepal in November 2022. Pakistan team played well but they couldn’t finish well.

Apart from football activities, the PFF took an initiative of conducting a Futsal Level-1 Coaching Course. The Asian Football Confederation sent Nasser Saleh to Pakistan to initiate the course, which was held in two batches with 15 participants each and prepare them to take futsal to new heights in the country.

Despite the legal battles, the PFF NC also launched the FIFA Connect programme in the country in August. It guided and informed all the stakeholders how to complete their registration process and the response was quite good as a good number of clubs registered them with this program. The aim of entire process was to hold free and fair elections of the PFF.

Another step by the NC was equal prize money for men and women teams. Besides this, they were provided the best facilities at the PFF Headquarters along with the best kits, accommodation and other basic facilities. In the beginning of 2023, Pakistan women’s team is all set to feature in Four-Nation Cup in Saudi Arabia. They will begin their campaign against Comoros on January 11.

The PFF NC is keen to keep national men and women football teams engaged in consecutive competitions so that they may improve their skills and international rankings.

The PFF NC is also set to launch Football Connect Drive, which will commence in second week of January. This step of launching “PFF at your Doorstep” campaign across the country is the first-ever community outreach program by the PFF with the purpose of catching those stakeholders, who somehow missed the chance to register them in the FIFA Connect.

The national football activity will also be revived with National Challenge Cup 2023, to be played throughout the country in the first quarter of this year. In 2023, the ultimate goal of the NC will, hopefully, be holding PFF elections in a fair and transparent manner.

Published in The Nation, 5 January 2023