KARACHI: Despite the opposition from the departments, the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee has made it official: one of the three clubs from Balochistan will be the country’s entrants in the inaugural SAFF Club Championship next year.
The PFF NC announced on Wednesday that Chaman’s Afghan FC and Muslim FC as well as Baloch FC of Noushki will take part in a league-style event in December in Quetta with the winners taking the one slot available for Pakistan at the eight-team South Asian event.
The Haroon Malik-led NC said the decision had been made “after a meticulous review of the last 10 years’ data” which showed the Pakistan Premier Football League had been held twice. It said the three clubs had “consistently showcased their prowess in both instances”.
On the two occasions the PPFL has been held under the supervision of a FIFA-recognised PFF, Baloch FC have participated in just one after they were relegated at the end of the 2013/14 season. The 2014/15 season was the last PPFL edition to have been completed without incident with Pakistan football having been mired in crisis and controversy since then.
Baloch FC were also relegated when the league was last held in 2018, the latter part of the season being disputed with a court-elected PFF having taken over charge of country’s football.
It prompted FIFA to appoint the NC in September 2019 to resolve football matters in Pakistan but it still hasn’t been able to organise the country’s top-tier league. The previous NC led by Humza Khan did manage to hold the second-tier Pakistan Football Federation League which saw Baloch FC gain promotion.
The PFF’s impending move to nominate the three clubs had led to brewing opposition from the departments, which form the chunk of Pakistan’s domestic sides. The PFF in the past, or the NC during its tenure, hasn’t been able to fully implement Asian Football Confederation’s club licensing regulations.
Back in 2018, Pakistan teams were barred from the AFC Cup — Asia’s second-tier club competition — because none of the sides fulfilled the licensing regulations.
The SAFF Club Championship is the brainchild of South Asian Football Federation president Kazi Salahuddin. Salahuddin, who also heads the Bangladesh Football Federation, told Dawn in 2014 that the holding of a club tournament would “boost football in South Asia”.
The club championship got a go-ahead at SAFF’s Ordinary Congress in Dhaka earlier this year with the inaugural edition to feature two sides each from India and one each from the remaining six members.
SAFF general secretary Anwarul Haque Helal told the Bangladesh Post last week that the teams will be split into two groups of four with matches to be held on a home and away basis. When asked by Dawn about a start date for the event on Wednesday, Helal said: “Not yet.”
A key official of a major department was furious at the development. “We have the only chance of a protest now and we will do it,” the official said. “It’s highly unjust with the departments and it means that they have decided to abolish departments. I think there is no difference between the policy of NC and former Prime Minister Imran Khan,” the official said.
“Then tell us straight away to abolish departments as they will not spend millions of budget on a single event. We will also weigh legal option,” the official said.