by Alam Zeb Safi
Over the last few days, substantial development in Pakistan’s football has taken place which has paved the way for resumption of the sport in the country. Lahore High Court’s (LHC) division bench, comprising Justice Ayesha Malik and Justice Jawad Hasan, restored Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) a few days ago.
The decision enabled the federation to regain possession of its secretariat in Lahore.
A few days later, FIFA lifted suspension it had imposed on the PFF last October. “The suspension of the PFF is lifted with immediate effect,” FIFA wrote to PFF on March 13. “This means that all of the PFF membership rights have been reinstated as defined in article-13 of the FIFA Statutes, with immediate effect,” FIFA said.
When I contacted FIFA after the suspension was lifted, its spokesman said: “Please note that any update on this matter will be communicated in due course.”
The letter, addressed to PFF by FIFA Secretary General, further said: “Consequently, PFF representatives and club teams are again entitled to take part in international competitions.
“This also means that PFF members and officials may benefit from development programmes, courses and training from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Finally, FIFA member associations may again enter into sporting contact with the PFF and its teams,” FIFA said.
“Please take note that any possible further steps with regard to the situation of the PFF will be communicated in due course.”
On late Wednesday night, FIFA told me that it was going to “closely follow the situation of PFF”.
All this is positive.
Meanwhile, the rival group has filed an appeal in the apex court.
The PFF on Saturday held its Executive Committee meeting in Lahore and announced future plans. It also announced that Pakistan would feature in the Asian Games slated to held in Indonesia from August 18 to September 2. FIFA will also have to clarify in detail the status of the PFF and its obligations. The world body is sending a mission to Pakistan and hopefuly a better decision would be taken.
Because of the damages Pakistan’s football received during the last three years, the PFF should now work vigorously for football development in Pakistan. It will have to professionalise its league, establish academies, increase teams’ exposure and set up strong media and marketing wings
FIFA had given two years to PFF until September 2017 with the instructions to revise the constitution and hold fresh elections. The PFF could not act as it had been advised by FIFA due to various issues.
It is expected that FIFA would come up with a clear stance in the days to come.
The PFF will also have to honour the court and should promise that it will hold its new elections in 2019. Any other stance about its next elections may create problems for the federation. I cannot discuss the matter in further detail at this point but will certainly say that next month three long years will be completed since the conflict emerged.
During this period, Pakistan did not feature in any international event. Three seasons of the Premier League have been missed. The league is the main source of income for the players. National footballers and their families suffered huge financial damages during this time.
The age-group teams suffered the most as they were deprived of chances to establish a solid foundation by featuring in age-group continental and regional events.
It would not be wrong to say that the last three wasted years have pushed Pakistan several years back in football.
It will be a herculean task to bring back the gloss of the sport in Pakistan where football is the second major sport, after cricket. It would also not be wrong to say that nursery-wise football has strong base than cricket in Pakistan. It is unfortunate that the most sought-after game is suffering this way.
Pakistan’s media have also failed to give attention to football due to their obsession with cricket.
It’s time football in Pakistan took centre stage. PFF will emerge stronger than ever because of substantial FIFA funding.
FIFA has made a whopping increase in the grants of its national associations following the election of Gianni Infantino as the world body’s president in early 2016. Pakistan got no benefit from it because of the internal conflict.
If anything different did not happen in the next few days due to legal issues, the PFF should immediately start football activities. The PFF will have to focus on establishing its own venues, for matches and for practice, in all the major centres of the country where FIFA has already helped Pakistan establish football houses.
Because of the damages Pakistan’s football received during the last three years, the PFF should now work vigorously for football development in Pakistan. It will have to professionalise its league, establish academies, increase teams’ exposure and set up strong media and marketing wings.
It will have to act now in a professional style to make things better. The PFF direly needs some foreign professionals to look after various matters.