By Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: FIFA’s structure has been overhauled over the last two years. On the surface, not much has changed in Pakistan football during that time though.
But almost two years after the Executive Committee of the global football body gave a two-year mandate to Faisal Saleh Hayat as chief of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), its Council — which is now the top decision-making institution after FIFA went a makeover in wake of the worst crisis in its history — ratified a ban on Pakistan placed by its Bureau about two weeks ago for “third-party interference”.
“The Council confirmed the decision of the Bureau of the Council, which was communicated on 11 October 2017,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn, after the Council met in Kolkata on Friday.
Then, the Bureau of the Council — comprising the six heads of continental confederations and the FIFA president — had announced it was suspending the PFF with immediate effect since it was under the control of a court-appointed administrator.
The decision came after FIFA’s executive committee had in September 2015 had given the PFF faction led by Hayat two years to amend its statutes and conduct fresh elections after a major dispute broke in the run up to its presidential polls earlier that year.
Football has largely come to a standstill in the country since, with the Lahore High Court (LHC) having declared the election conducted by Hayat’s faction as null and void after the PFF broke into two factions in the aforementioned dispute while appointing an administrator — retired Justice Asad Munir — to manage its affairs till the case was resolved.
FIFA did not accept the administrator and had said that the suspension “will be lifted once the PFF offices and access to the PFF accounts are returned to the PFF”.
Ambiguity remained who was the PFF since the mandate given to the Hayat faction had already expired. But there is an indication that FIFA is trying to speed up the resolution.
“The FIFA administration can now decide on the further course of action,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn when asked about whether the next steps involve installing a normalisation committee — the usual modus operandi once FIFA slaps a ban on its member association. “But any decision it takes will be confirmed by the FIFA Council.”
It means that instead of waiting for the Bureau of the Council to meet and decide, the administration led by FIFA’s secretary general Fatma Samoura with advice and inputs from the members association committee will look at resolving the issue.
Samoura had shown great interest in the Pakistan issue, well-placed sources told Dawn on Friday.
While Hayat has been claiming in various television interviews that the ban on Pakistan is detrimental for football in the country, the reality is that the game has been suffering since 2015 while his faction has been constantly withdrawing national teams from Asian and regional competitions in a situation that seemed like a ban without a ban.
The Hayat faction seems also stunned at the fact that FIFA banned the PFF despite the executive committee of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) having recommended after its meeting in May to give them an extension of a further two years.
“The Pakistan ban is a matter for FIFA not AFC,” an AFC spokesperson told Dawn when asked for a reaction to FIFA not following the recommendations given by it.
While the AFC, and its president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, had been backing Hayat’s faction, the support seems to have waned recently.
Salman, as a member of the Bureau of the FIFA Council, would’ve taken the decision to ban Pakistan.
“This is something which is related to FIFA,” Salman told reporters in Kolkata on the sidelines of the FIFA Council meeting. “It is FIFA’s member associations committee which has the details of the ban.”