KARACHI: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is expected to join the Saudi Arabia-led South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF) as the federation says it is studying the proposal and if it turns out to be in the interest of the country it will join it.
“Certainly, there is a proposal and we are studying it. If it is in the interest of Pakistan we will join the association,” a senior official of the PFF told ‘The News’ on Saturday.
The SWAFF held its meeting in Jeddah on May 10 which was also attended by Punjab Football Association (PFA) chief Sardar Naveed Haider and Dr Fazal-ur-Rehman of Islamabad.
Besides Pakistan, representatives from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives also attended the meeting.
It is in fact a merger of the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) and South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).
There is also speculation that the SWAFF will be strengthened more. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the staunch allies in the 11-month-old boycott against Qatar, have invested a lot in central Asia. And there is every chance that they will also bring central Asian countries into the SWAFF fold in future.
South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) president Kazi Salahuddin of Bangladesh was also present at the SWAFF meeting.
According to reports, the WAFF president and former candidate for the FIFA presidency Prince Ali of Jordan had turned down the request of Saudi Arabia to shift the WAFF secretariat from Jordan to Saudi Arabia which prompted Saudi Arabia to take the initiative of forming a new association.
According to media reports, Nepal and Bhutan did not attend the meeting. Some reports suggest that as the meeting had been convened hurriedly, they could not attend it but will be part of the alliance in the near future.
A meeting of the presidents of the ten regional associations which were present in the May 10 meeting in Jeddah will meet again on May 25 and a final touch will be given to the body which is expected to play a leading role in the development of football in the region.
Meanwhile Pakistan’s football experts say that the SWAFF would bring a great change in football of Pakistan and other South Asian countries.
“It is a great initiative and will be of great help to Pakistan in particular as it will provide exposure to the country’s players in a much bigger market,” former Pakistan assistant coach Nasir Ismail told ‘The News’ on Saturday.
“The boys will learn when they face top oppositions in various events on a regular basis. I think it will be a great booster for the South Asian football nations,” said Nasir, also an AFC License A coach.
Former Pakistan coach Tariq Lutfi said it would boost football in South Asia. “I think it will help our football. South Asian countries will benefit more as the nations involved in the associations like Saudi Arabia and the UAE have more money and they can back their South Asian partners for bilateral series. It will also provide a good market to the players of South Asia to join some better leagues in the Gulf states,” he added.