Making hay while the sun shines? [TNS]

Making hay while the sun shines? [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

Entering the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) headquarters is not as difficult as entering the headquarters of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF). Security guards will welcome you but will not let you enter until they get approval from the top officials of the PFF Normalisation Committee which was appointed by FIFA in September 2019 to hold the PFF elections which now seems to be a distant dream.

When you are allowed to enter after the security personnel get the nod of the authorities you will be asked to sit in a big hall on the ground floor where due to extreme heat it is difficult to even breathe.

From there you can see the NC’s staff members going upstairs and one feels they are extremely busy and involved in huge tasks. As a guest normally is restricted to the big hall so it is not easy for him to know how busy the staff members are.

NC’s members and its chairman in fact seem like football pundits. They are lucky to draw handsome salaries in dollars from the FIFA exchequer and also enjoy foreign tours, VVIP protocols on foreign tours and take other allowances with a barrage of security guards around shielding them.

Where other Pakistanis find it difficult to manage the expenses of their routine life NC’s members live like kings as they earn more than those labouring in Europe and the US without working.

They act as if no one else is as knowledgeable about football as they are. FIFA installed NC for a big task four years ago to hold the PFF elections but so far nothing big has happened in that direction.

Stakeholders sometimes react by holding a protest but then they go into silence and the situation gets normal.

FIFA also is generous in giving extensions to NC despite no progress on the electoral front.

And it will not have any impact on FIFA as it is the richest sports body but it definitely is badly affecting Pakistan football which has already suffered a lot over the last few years.

At NC mostly the chairman handles the things. He rarely responds to your call and you are lucky when he replies to your call or your message. Even former PFF president Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat used to respond quickly to any call of a journalist despite being a busy politician.

NC’s chairman holds Canada’s passport. He is seen as a thorough gentleman but acts always cleverly. One cannot grasp how skilled he is in manipulating the matters. I think FIFA has picked the right man for the right job.

NC has got extension until the middle of March 2024 but it is certain that it cannot hold elections as usual in the remaining time-frame as it has no such intent. And everybody can see this.

The biggest impact of NC’s staying at the helm of affairs will be that it will prevent the PFF from making long term development plans for the country’s football. Only an elected PFF can go for long-term plans. And only then will football develop.

Currently the situation is that things are being handled on an adhoc basis. NC’s focus has been on handling international football events for the last few months. It has not treated domestic football the way it deserved. Sometimes I wonder how players for the national teams are picked without domestic football.

Where is the Premier League? How badly the National Challenge Cup was handled. One leg was held at the start of this year and the second leg will be held at the end of this year.

Pakistan senior football team featured in a number of tournaments where it flopped completely in recent months because the country does not have a domestic structure.

Now Pakistan under-23 team is set to feature in the 2024 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Bahrain. Again the team’s preparation has been mishandled. NC delayed its camp and the players got hardly two weeks for training. Picking Abbottabad as a training venue is also not a good decision from NC.

The weather in Abbottabad is normal while the brigade will go to Bahrain where they will face hot weather and it will leave a bad impact on Pakistan’s performance in the Qualifiers where they will also face strong Japan.

Pakistan Under-19 and Pakistan Under-16 teams are also set to feature in SAFF Championships next month. Pakistan women team also is set to take part in a six-nation event in Taif, Saudi Arabia, next month.

Pakistan senior men’s team will also feature in the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia in October. The first leg will be held on October 12 in Cambodia while the return leg is expected to be held in Islamabad on October 17.

The camp for the men’s senior team will be held after the Pakistan under-23 team completes its 2024 Asian Cup Qualifiers journey in the second week of September.

The point is that after these busy months as far as international football is concerned NC should completely divert its focus towards holding the PFF elections. It should not seek another extension and must complete the task by March.

But it will be difficult for the NC’s crew as they have never earned so much money in their entire life which they have earned during their stints with NC, especially at a time when Pakistan’s currency is rapidly losing its ground against the US dollar.

The real stakeholders are not happy with NC’s delaying tactics and are convinced that it does not want to hold the PFF elections.

The stakeholders are also not happy with the way they have been treated by NC during the last few years.

The skilled and experienced coaches have been completely ignored and rather such coaches were given the national teams who either were not qualified enough or had no experience of handling national sides.

A coach of a club is being carried with the women’s team and it has also annoyed the football community. Similarly the appointment of Pakistan senior team manager during the recent trips also raised many eyebrows.

If NC continues to prolong its time and doesn’t go for elections in the remaining time-frame of its tenure it may further hurt Pakistan football.

Hope NC understands these things.

Published in The News on Sunday, 27 August 2023