Pakistan’s footballing mess [TNS]

Pakistan’s footballing mess [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

On January 11, 2024, the Ministry of the IPC, headed by the federal minister Fawad Hasan Fawad, wrote a letter to FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino about the election of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).

“As you are aware that the establishment of the PFF NC was done by FIFA through its order dated June 27, 2019. This was done after the recognition of the fact that various groups were trying to take over the federation in complete disregard of the constitution of the PFF as well as the spirit of the charter of FIFA which expects these associations to work only for the promotion of the game. Unfortunately, this overriding spirit was clearly taken over by the urge of personal control and glorification at the cost of the game itself as well as to the determinant of the interest of the vast majority of the young population of Pakistan who love this amazing game,” the letter said.

“This was followed by various extensions on the request of the Normalization Committee with the last extension up-to March 15, 2024, given on June 22, 2023. This was with the above in view that the Government of Pakistan welcomed the appointment of Normalization Committee which was given a clear mandate as follows: (a) Run the daily affairs of the PFF; (b) Ensure proper regulation and scrutiny of the clubs; (c) Draft and ratify an electoral code for PFF; (d) Organize and conduct elections at the district and provincial levels; and (e) Organize and conduct elections of a new executive committee of the PFF,” the letter said.

“This is extremely unfortunate to note, however, that this simple assignment has not been completed even after more than four years of the existence of the Normalization Committee. Apart from the above, instead of making any efforts to do the assigned job, the Normalization Committee has tried everything which can only prolong its existence at the cost of game.

“You will appreciate that in no case FIFA wanted the Normalization Committee to assume the role of the federation itself for an unlimited time. I would therefore suggest that a meeting for reviewing the work done so far by the Normalization Committee may be immediately held in Pakistan or at any other location of your choice in the presence of the representatives of the government of Pakistan to set a clear roadmap for completing the electoral process of the Pakistan Football Federation. I would therefore urge you to take immediate note of the inordinate delay in completion of the process and the resultant impact on the game of football in Pakistan. lt is therefore in the interest of everyone that the process of elections is completed well before the last extended deadline of 15th March, 2024 without any further extensions. While the Government of Pakistan remains committed to abiding by the Charter of FIFA, it will like the Normalization Committee to complete its assigned task without any further delay,” the letter concluded.

The state’s letter to FIFA certainly would have put pressure on NC which has wasted a lot of time. One wonders why NC’s chief is so non-serious. At a stage when he needs to hold elections by March 15 he spent a month in Canada, which is his second home as he is a dual national.

Here I would suggest to both FIFA and AFC to hold an immediate meeting with the government of Pakistan and football stakeholders in Pakistan. It will help them to come to know about the transparency of the scrutiny process which is in operation and it will give first-hand information.

Holding a meeting at a neutral venue will be of no benefit. I would also suggest to both FIFA and AFC to also advise NC’s chairman Haroon Malik to hold a press conference and explain how he is going to conduct the elections.

He should clarify whether the new clubs, which have been registered, will be part of the electoral process or not.

What I have known from the football market is if the newly-registered clubs are given voting rights then several legal suits may be initiated and football will plunge into a big turmoil.

Stakeholders don’t have clarity and they should be taken into confidence before such expected steps are taken.

FIFA should also investigate whether the clubs being given FIFA IDs are genuine or not. It should also investigate the process under which Pakistan Football Referees Association (PFRA) elections have been held. The relevant stakeholders have sharply criticised that process.

The other day, NC used its social media platform by uploading pictures and videos of the Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad, and hinted that the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers game against Jordan scheduled for March 21 may be shifted abroad as the venue does not meet FIFA’s requirements.

NC has created a huge mess. It has made our nation a laughing stock in the international community. The government has already assured NC that the venue will be ready for the March 21 night game against Jordan. The required floodlights will also be installed by February end. And Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has already assured NC through its January 19 letter, which the Board has written in response to the NC’s January 17 letter that the venue will be made ready before the game.

Both NC and IPC ministry should make top effort to ensure the Pakistan-Jordan game is held in Pakistan so that the die-hard football fans could get another opportunity to witness major football action. A huge crowd witnessed the games of Pakistan against Cambodia and Tajikistan. Hope the next game against Jordan, which will be held in Ramadan, attracts a big crowd.

One day NC has to go and it will be better if it works fairly and holds the PFF elections with transparency so that a better set-up could come and serve national football.

The biggest issue with the NC’s chairman is that he does not communicate with the media. This attitude will sink him eventually. So he should be cautious. It would be better for him not to prolong his tenure. He should hold fair elections and pack up and go.

Published in The News on Sunday, 28 January 2024