by Azhar Khan
LAHORE-The Normalisation Committee (NC) of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), under the leadership of Haroon Malik, has orchestrated a series of accomplishments, setting the stage for a brighter future of football in Pakistan. The journey through 2023 has seen accomplishments for both the women’s and men’s national teams, significant strides in youth development, and the initiation of crucial reforms within the footballing ecosystem.
WOMEN’S FOOTBALL ASCENDS NEW HEIGHTS
The Women’s football team, captained by Maria Khan, embarked on an impressive journey, beginning with a remarkable showing in the 4-Nation Tournament in Saudi Arabia. The team finished as runners-up, capturing attention with a viral free-kick by Captain Maria Khan. Additionally, their maiden participation in the Olympic Qualifiers marked a historic moment for Pakistani women’s football. The commitment to gender equality was further underscored when Haroon Malik announced equal salaries for women players, a groundbreaking move in the South Asian football landscape.
MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM RESURGENCE
Under the great coaching of Stephen Constantine, the Men’s National Team experienced a transformative period. The team overcame early challenges to secure a historic victory against Cambodia, earning a spot in the second round of FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers. The appointment of Constantine brought about a change in fortunes, instilling hope and a renewed sense of purpose in the squad. Harun Hamid’s magic on the field further solidified Pakistan’s ambitions to compete at the highest level of international football.
YOUTH DEVELOPMENT AND TALENT SCOUTING
Recognizing the importance of youth development, the PFF, under coach Sajjad Mehmood, witnessed commendable performances from the Under-16 and Under-19 teams in regional championships. The collaboration with Candyland for nationwide talent scouting initiatives showcased a commitment to identifying and nurturing young talent across Pakistan. The Under-23 team’s participation in the AFC U23 Cup marked another milestone, contributing to a year that saw Pakistan play over 30 international matches.
EXPANDING THE FOOTBALL ECOSYSTEM
The PFF successfully hosted four Futsal National Cups across the country, with plans in motion for the introduction of the prestigious All Pakistan Futsal Championship in 2024. Beyond competitions, the commitment to player well-being was evident through medical workshops organized by the Chief Medical Officer. Referee refresher sessions and specialized goalkeeping clinics further illustrated a holistic approach aimed at elevating the standards of football within the nation.
PFF ELECTIONS: A TRANSPARENT PATH FORWARD
The election process, a crucial step in ensuring the democratic functioning of the PFF, has progressed significantly. With a comprehensive examination of clubs across 78 regions and more than 1200 matches played, the process has intensified the competitive spirit within the football community. Having successfully conducted the Pakistan Football Referee Association Elections, the upcoming district football elections in late January 2024 promise to be a pivotal moment. The transparent and participatory nature of these elections bodes well for the future of Pakistan Football, pointing towards an era of greater transparency, accountability, and excellence.
Highlighting the notable achievements of the PFF NC and the strides made in Pakistan football throughout 2023, NC Member Muhammad Shahid Niaz Khokhar expressed, “Under the astute leadership of Mr. Haroon Malik, this Normalization Committee propelled Pakistan football to unprecedented heights. A concerted effort was made to enhance the facilities for both our men’s and women’s teams, translating into improved performances on the international stage. Notably, women players were granted equal salaries, and significant participation in international tournaments was facilitated. Simultaneously, the men’s team underwent robust strengthening, benefiting from enhanced facilities, incentives and coaching.”
Khokhar continued, “Our commitment extended beyond the present, as we actively scouted and nurtured fresh talent, injecting vitality into the teams. The ongoing election process, a pivotal aspect of our mandate, has been approached with transparency, ensuring fairness in the forthcoming PFF elections. With these accomplishments under our belt, we eagerly anticipate the dawn of 2024, driven by the collective zeal to successfully fulfill our mandate.”