By Mohammad Yaqoob/Umaid Wasim
KARACHI/LAHORE: A fact-finding mission from the FIFA and AFC is set to arrive in Pakistan on Saturday with a view to resolving the crisis and controversy that has plagued the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) over the last few months.
The country’s football governing body has been in turmoil since April after contentious elections of the Punjab Football Association (PFA) which became a precursor for further controversy in the lead-up to the PFF presidential elections and saw the PFF split into two factions.
And after months of ‘monitoring the situation’, the world’s football governing body FIFA and the Asian body AFC have taken action.
“We can confirm that FIFA and AFC will conduct in the coming days a fact-finding mission in Pakistan under the chairmanship of the member of the FIFA Associations Committee and Cyprus FA President Costas Koutsokoumnis,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn in a statement on Friday.
“The mission will report its findings to the relevant FIFA and AFC bodies.”
FIFA had announced last week that it would be sending a mission to the country but its statement on Friday came after widespread rumours in the country that its mission was to arrive sooner rather than later.
Earlier on Friday, a spokesperson from the AFC had told Dawn that “there is no update at the moment.”
According to sources here, the mission would consist of three members with Primo Corvaro, FIFA’s Head of Member Associations, and Si Song Mun, a member of the AFC Members Association committee, being the other two members.
The mission will meet both PFF factions — one led by PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat and the other by PFF’s senior vice-president Zahir Ali Shah.
The split in the PFF came after Hayat’s group postponed the PFA elections on April 17 before declaring Sardar Naveed Haider Khan the winner hours later.
It then saw Zahir announce his candidacy in the PFF presidential elections in which he was challenging his former ally Hayat, who was running for a fourth term as the country’s football chief.
But as the presidential polls neared, Zahir’s group noted several discrepancies in the PFF constitution for the electoral congress to be held on June 30 and suspended Hayat through an Extraordinary Congress before taking over the PFF Headquarters in Lahore with the support of a majority of Congress members.
It saw two bodies being formed, one led by Hayat and the other under interim control of Arshad Khan Lodhi. And as both bodies announced their own presidential elections, the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervened and ordered a stay on the polls.
Hayat, though, went ahead with the elections in Changla Gali which were later declared null and void by the LHC whilst he was served with a contempt notice. The LHC has also appointed an administrator of the PFF who will hold fresh elections.
Hayat has been terming the recent moves as government interference and his supporters are saying the arrival of the FIFA mission is on his invitation.
“Hayat invited the FIFA and AFC officials to monitor the situation personally and to decide which group is violating the spirit of their constitution,” one of the members of his faction told Dawn on Friday.
On the other hand, the splinter group is claiming that the FIFA action follows a letter written by Zahir to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
“This is a timely intervention by FIFA and we’re very happy that they’ve responded to the letter by Zahir,” Col Farasat Ali Shah, the interim secretary of the PFF splinter group, told Dawn on Friday. “We will apprise them of everything and we’re confident of coming out clean.”
Both parties are due to meet with the mission on Saturday but media haven’t been invited to meet the officials.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2015