By Natasha Raheel,
KARACHI: In a manner not too dissimilar to a natural disaster, it is the children who have suffered the most from the ongoing power struggle at the upper echelons of football administration in the country.
Pakistan have already withdrawn from the South Asian Football Federation (Saff) U16 Championship in Bangladesh that was scheduled to start on August 7, and the U16 and U19 sides are expected to miss several tournaments before the issue is resolved.
The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has been courting controversy for some time now, with Faisal Saleh Hayat’s faction being opposed by that of Arshad Lodhi and Farasat Ali Shah; who called a PFF Extra-Ordinary Congress in June to oust Hayat as the president on charges of funds embezzlement. The entire fracas came to a head on Thursday when the Lahore High Court (LHC) declared Hayat’s election as the federation’s president on June 30 null and void.
Development of football affected
Former national coach and player Tanveer Ahmed believes that it is the players who are suffering while the two factions continue to fight it out in court. “We’ve just been pushed back two years,” Ahmed told The Express Tribune. “It’s disheartening and it’s hurting football. The officials will not lose anything, but I look at the players that we coaches in the PFF Technical Study Group picked for the Saff U16. I look at them and I don’t know how to answer their question when they ask me whether there will be a camp or not.”
Meanwhile, Ahmed and his study group member Najeebullah Najmi, another former player and coach, said that U16 and U19 players will be demoralised by the recent events. “These U16 and U19 players will never get the chance of playing in these tournaments again as they will be too old by the time the next edition comes around,” said Najmi.
Pakistan were expected to take part in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U16, U19 qualifiers and South Asian Football Federation Cup after the Saff U16 Championship, but with all these tournaments taking place before the end of the year, the current turmoil has thrown participation in doubt.
“It’s not just international events, but also domestic ones,” added Ahmed. “We doubt that the Pakistan Premier Football League will take place this year and the women’s premier league has also been postponed, while internationally we aren’t going anywhere. The players should be the priority for the federation.”
Long battle ahead
The signs point towards a bitter and long legal struggle. The LHC has ordered a neutral administrator, retired Justice Asad Munir, to look after the affairs and sort its matters till the next hearing on September 18, while Hayat has decided to challenge the court’s decision in the Supreme Court. Munir has been charged with the responsibility of holding PFF elections within the next four months.
The Federal Investigation Agency also froze the federation’s account this month.
A FIFA spokesperson also confirmed that they are deliberating sending a team to investigate into the matter. “FIFA and AFC are in contact regarding the PFF situation in order to organise a possible mission in the near future,” said the spokesperson.