The future of Pakistan football [TNS]

The future of Pakistan football [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

The next few months are very important for Pakistan football. FIFA-appointed Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee needs to complete the electoral process by March 2024, a deadline set by the world football governing body.

There are still fears in the hearts of the stakeholders and football enthusiasts in Pakistan who don’t trust the NC and say that it will not complete the electoral process in the stipulated period.

How can people trust the NC when it has not done anything substantial during the last four years since its inception way back in September 2019.

The NC on September 26 issued a press statement in which it said that the electoral process (club scrutiny) has been resumed.

Well-placed sources have told me that FIFA will review this electoral development in October.

FIFA will not give further extension to the NC and will strongly push it to complete the electoral process within the stipulated period.

Sources say that the coming elections will not be held under the electoral list which was used in the 2015 elections. That list is not acceptable to either FIFA or AFC. Some of the deserving new registered clubs, after scrutiny, will get voting rights. However, FIFA will check the mechanism under which voting rights will be given to the registered clubs.

Clubs scrutiny is a lengthy process but very crucial. Transparency will be needed there so that the most genuine clubs could enter the process.

It may take time. It is confirmed that both FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) want the PFF elections as soon as possible.

FIFA has also warned of sanctions if hurdles are created in the way of the electoral process.

FIFA and AFC like the current set up of NC, having members of diverse backgrounds with its chairman having Canadian nationality.

The NC may face big issues during scrutiny. Even legal suits may be initiated in the process. And that may create a big hurdle in the way of the electoral process.

But the big issue is that the NC’s intent is not clear. It needs to show character. It will need to take the electoral process seriously so that football affairs could be handed over to the elected representatives as soon as possible.

Four years is a big duration during which NC did not do anything noteworthy except the registration of the clubs through FIFA Connect Programme.

It is also certain that departmental votes will matter a lot in the PFF elections.

The NC will now be relieved of the burden of sending national teams to international events when Pakistan senior team features in the World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia next month. If Pakistan failed to progress to the next round then NC would have little to do in the next few months, so it should completely focus on the electoral process.

Election is highly needed as the nation has been finding it difficult to compete in the international circuit impressively due to various reasons.

During the NC’s presence domestic football in particular suffered a lot with the Premier League missing from the events calendar.

The NC also faces funding issues and during the last few months various matters were handled with great difficulty.

The NC also mishandled the last few international tours of Pakistan’s teams. With the World Cup Qualifiers first leg against Cambodia just a few days away, the NC is yet to finalise who will be the head coach of the team.

Till writing of this article the NC was negotiating with a foreign coach for handling the national team in the Qualifiers.

It removed head coach Shehzad Anwar at a time when the Qualifiers were just around the corner. Shehzad groomed the senior team for the purpose for one year.

It would be a great service of NC if it worked hard and managed to complete the elections process before March.

A well-placed source says that FIFA and AFC will want the NC to complete the electoral process well before March 2024. But I will also advise the stakeholders to support the NC in its working so that the elections could be held by March.

If further legal issues emerge then it will create a big issue for the country’s football.

FIFA twice in the last few years imposed sanctions on Pakistan for third party interference and our stakeholders should note that any further hiccup will sink the country’s football.

Let’s support the NC in the electoral process so that Pakistan football could be handed over to the new elected body which will help begin a new era of the country’s football development.

Published in The News on Sunday, 1 October 2023