by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: World’s football governing body FIFA on Monday put to rest all claims of embattled Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president Faisal Saleh Hayat regarding the FIFA World Cup Trophy coming to Pakistan.
On the day FIFA banned the PFF for “third party interference” in October last year, Hayat had claimed that his “diplomatic efforts” were bringing the World Cup trophy to the country and that it was in serious doubt because of the suspension.
The claims haven’t died down and have continued even after FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour sponsors Coca Cola announced earlier this month that the iconic piece of footballing history was indeed coming to Pakistan on February 3.
The trophy will be on display for the public in Lahore and comes at a time when the game has almost come to a point of stagnation in Pakistan.
All that came after a controversial election of the PFF in 2015. The dispute over the election saw the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervene and subsequently saw FIFA ban the country since the court had appointed an administrator to oversee PFF affairs till a resolution is found.
FIFA clarified that there was no involvement of the PFF in Lahore being one of over 50 stops as the World Cup Trophy makes its way to the World Cup in Russia in June.
“As stated in the FIFA Statutes, in case of suspension, a member association is not able to exercise its membership rights,” A FIFA spokesperson told Dawn on Monday. “As the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola (FWCTT) is organised and implemented by them, the stop in Pakistan would not constitute a membership right of the PFF.”
The spokesperson added that the trophy’s appearance in Pakistan would bring the World Cup closer to football fans in the country.
“FIFA regards the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour (FWCTT) as an excellent initiative as it gives fans around the world a unique opportunity to get up close to the same trophy that will be presented to the winning country of the tournament in July, thus bringing the FIFA World Cup closer to them.”
EXCITEMENT BUILDING UP
There is growing excitement amongst the country’s footballers and the general public as they await the trophy’s arrival.
“Obviously it’s an exciting time for all football lovers,” Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) striker Murtuza Hussain, who saw his hopes becoming a Pakistan international hit by the PFF crisis, told Dawn.
“It’s every player’s dream to play at the World Cup but I hope seeing the trophy come to Pakistan will galvanise the nation and hopefully serious work and investment is done to develop the game in the country.”
Pakistan haven’t played an international match since March 2015 and they are currently ranked an appalling 201st in the FIFA rankings.
Pakistan international midfielder Saddam Hussain hopes the trophy’s arrival marks a turning point for the game in the country.
“It’s a great moment for the nation that FIFA is bringing the trophy to the country,” Saddam told Dawn.
Currently playing in Northern Cyprus, Saddam said he was sad at missing out on the momentous occasion but added: “I’d be even more glad if this improves the situation of football in Pakistan.”
The World Cup Trophy Tour is the first step the FIFA sponsors are taking as part of developing football in the Pakistan. A grassroots tournament is also in the offing.
That’s what Pakistan international goalkeeper Saqib Hanif said would be a huge service to the game in the country.
“The World Cup coming here wouldn’t really matter if it doesn’t bring with it winds of change,” he told Dawn. “What follows this will be key.”