by Alam Zeb Safi
The game of football faced an unprecedented loss during the last nine months because of the infighting between two factions of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
I don’t want to go into the details but will briefly mention that the lust for power and the controversial Punjab Football Association’s (PFA) elections were the main reasons why the things got complicated.
One side is led by Faisal Saleh Hayat, a renowned politician, who is recognised by FIFA.
The other side is led by former PFF secretary Arshad Lodhi who is said to be enjoying patronage of the government.
Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health minister Syed Zahir Shah had been brought by an unknown power to contest election against Faisal for the PFF presidency.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) stayed the elections on June 29, 2015. However, Faisal-led PFF went on to hold its elections in Changla Gali on June 30 in the presence of an observer of Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
The LHC then declared the elections null and void and appointed former justice Asad Muneer as PFF administrator.
After the disputed PFA elections when PFF suspended 20 key officials of Punjab, Arshad Lodhi group convened an extraordinary congress in Islamabad and suspended Faisal and terminated his secretary Col Lodhi.
In the meeting Arshad was made acting PFF president and Col Farasat, former PFF Director Projects and Clubs, was made acting secretary.
After a few days, Arshad Lodhi group occupied the PFF headquarters in Lahore which is still in their control.
These episodes paved the way for FIFA sanctions. But FIFA took a wise step by sending a fact-finding mission to Pakistan which investigated the whole matter by holding marathon meetings with both the parties.
Later FIFA not only recognised Faisal-led PFF’s June 30 elections but also decided that this group would be given until September 2017 to revise its constitution and hold fresh elections.
FIFA seems to have made a mistake in giving two years to Faisal group. As was expected, the other group would not accept it. In my opinion, had FIFA assigned the task to an ad-hoc set-up, it could have been effective.
The LHC has completed its work on the cases and has reserved the decisions. However, the losing group may go to Supreme Court which would further prolong the case.
More interesting to see will be the outcome of the legal battle between the PFF and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). When the PSB sought to implement the tenure-restriction clause of the national sports policy, the PFF filed a case in the LHC to challenge the legal status of the Board.
Both parties are responsible for the mess. No one took care of the footballers who faced huge losses.
The next ruling party will have to struggle for four years to repair the damage.
Other countries of South Asia grew in the period in which Pakistani players spent most of their time in their homes because of the barren patch which saw no events, at home or abroad.
Pakistan’s age-group teams missed international events and the senior team missed not only the SAFF Cup held in India in December but it also would not be seen in action in the 12th South Asian Games.
The most vital event, the Premier League, also could not be conducted. Some organisations disbanded their teams and more could follow the suit.
It is indeed a serious situation for Pakistan’s football which had been on the path of progress during the last few years.
The top players had started getting opportunities of playing in foreign leagues. Kaleemullah these days is playing in America, which is a big achievement for the Chaman-born striker who shot to fame when he was first signed by Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi FC a few years ago.
The same club had also recruited Pakistani midfielder Mohammad Adil and Saddam Hussain. Saddam recently returned after a four-month stint with the Bahrain’s ISA Town FC.
Had so much time not been wasted more players could have got opportunities of playing in foreign leagues.
Those attached with the national teams used to get 100 dollars daily allowance during international assignments which was enough to support their families.
I think every player has suffered around Rs1 million loss during this period. Who will compensate for the damages which these players have suffered? Who will compensate for the loss faced by those youngsters who were deprived of the golden opportunity to represent their country in the AFC age-group competitions last year?
Recently, the PFF administrator Asad Muneer has started a competition in the name of PFF Cup. All parties should back the event for the sake of the players as they at last got an opportunity to play and earn bread and butter for their families.
Any further halt in the activities would further weaken the sport which has a huge following.
I also hope that the next FIFA set-up which could come into power through the February 26 elections in Zurich would take keen interest in the resolution of Pakistan’s dispute.