by John Duerden
There is some good and bad news for fans of Pakistan football coming out of FIFA. First, the bad: the national team occupies 203rd position in the rankings between Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands. Don’t ask where a resurgent India are (suffice to say in the top 100).
At least the FIFA ban was lifted last month. In October 2017, the world governing body told the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) that the years of mismanagement, corruption and political interference had to end. The national team hadn’t played for some time anyway but this put a halt to football in the country. For some it was a relief.
The reason given by FIFA was that an administrator appointed by the Pakistani courts had been placed in control of the PFF offices and accounts and thus it was political interference. With a Lahore High Court instructing the administrator to hand back control to the PFF then the ban was lifted.
Ostensibly it stemmed from to the Punjab FA elections in 2015. Rival power blocs in the PFF –some vying to keep longstanding president Faisal Saleh Hayat in his post and others trying to install a new man –clashed. Elections in Pakistan are often messy and rarely simple. The factions kept fighting and the only question was when, not whether, the ban was going to come.
Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat talking to the media after the Supreme Court Hearing today.SCs verdict is the way forward for Pakistan football and will put an end to every controversy once and for all. The future of Pakistan Football is ripe and this will be the era of football growth and development.
Posted by Pakistan Football Federation on Monday, April 16, 2018
FIFA could have done more. A normalisation committee worked in Thailand ahead of fresh elections in 2017. It could have been the answer three years ago. Regardless, the governing body stood on the sidelines for too long. The ban banished the divisions to the sidelines for a while but they still remain.
Hayat, who became president way back in 2003, is still in charge and publicly thanked the leaders of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation for their support. He is going to have to unify Pakistani football but few think he is the man for the job.
Under Hayat, the grassroots and development were not given the support they needed in recent years. There have been accusations that funds provided by FIFA and the AFC for facilities and projects were not used in the expected fashion with plans not carried out. Since he came to power, the national team has had fewer and fewer friendlies until it was barely playing at all.
It is desperately sad for a country that is much more passionate about football than many may think. Articles talking of India’s potential pop up on a weekly basis but there is nothing about Pakistan. There is potential here too but the absence of almost any meaningful football in recent years has taken its toll as has the lack of trust that those at the top either know what they are doing in general or care what they are doing to football in Pakistan.
If Hayat, a man with plenty of political experience, really has the best interests of Pakistan football at heart, he should step down, or announce that he will do so later in the year and work towards bringing the warring factions together. Pakistan football needs that kind of turning point. Even if the accusations of financial wrongdoing are baseless, Hayat can’t make the argument that the federation and football in the country has flourished under his stewardship.
It looks like there will be new elections soon and it is to be hoped that there is a fresh start.
FIFA and AFC need to do more too. Hayat threw his lot in with AFC president Sheikh Salman (Salman’s home country of Bahrain are once again helping out financially with the national team’s new Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira) and the confederation gave Hayat a free rein for too long, and he rose into influential positions.
The reorganisation of qualification for the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Asian Cup also did not help. Combining the roads to Moscow and Abu Dhabi was a particular problem for Pakistan. The Greenshirts were involved in a pre-qualifier against Yemen in March 2015, a two-legged affair that provided entry to the first group stage and potential meet-ups with the big boys.
Pakistan lost and that was it. Just 180 minutes of competitive action and that was it for four years. There was nothing else for Pakistan football to focus on until after the 2019 Asian Cup. To have no competitive football for four years is not healthy.
This is Pakistan football so nobody knows what it going to happen next. FIFA did get one thing right with its statement when it lifted the ban in March.
‘FIFA continues to closely follow the situation of the PFF.’ That is something we all should do.