Rising from the Ashes: Pakistan football flourish in 2023 [The Nation]

Rising from the Ashes: Pakistan football flourish in 2023 [The Nation]

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. 


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. 


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. 


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.


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. 


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.”

Published in The Nation, 31 December 2023