by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) championship will begin on September 4, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) only announced the squad on Friday.
Seemingly the federation’s president politician Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat has failed to make anything good for the team to come out of his membership at the newly formed South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF), which has been a more political move anyway.
Pakistan are slotted in Group A with hosts Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan and so far the PFF has only released the names of the 26 players at the camp with Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira, while former captain Kaleemullah has been missing from the camp attendees as well.
The Express Tribune attempted to contact the PFF officials including media manager Shahid Khokhar, Hayat, Secretary Ahmed Yar Lodhi and Technical Director Shahzad Anwar, who was travelling. None was available to answer.
The PFF only announced the squad via whatsapp group after 6pm informing that Saddam Hussain will be the captain and Hassan Bashir will be the vice-captain for the assignment.
Pakistan ranked 203 in world rankings only managed to win one match at the Asian Games in Jakarta, that too against Nepal, losing to Vietnam and Japan in the group stage.
Earlier it was reported that the national team may get a training tour to Qatar before Hayat went in to join SWAFF, a bloc that has been reportedly formed to oppose Qatar, in a power struggle at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Hayat also ran for the seat of SWAFF Senior Vice-President, which he lost to Maldives’ Mohamed Shaweed by eight votes in the second round, after tying with six votes each in the first round at the General Assembly, as reported by the Maldivian media.
Hayat had been looking for redemption from his defeat at the Pakistan’s General elections seat in Jhang. Hayat also took his brother Asad Hayat at the SWAFF assembly. Asad lost his provincial assembly elections and has no role with PFF whatsoever.
On the other hand, the SWAFF formation by the Saudi Arabia’s Dr Adel Ezzat is speculated to be a move to increase the Saudi influence at the AFC.
After having the first SWAFF general assembly in Jeddah where Ezzat was elected as the president on August 12, he announced a week later that he will be running for the AFC presidency election next year. Ezzat also resigned on his post as the Saudi Arabia Football Association head.
The move itself, according to the international outlets, has only been reluctantly welcomed by the current AFC president, Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa. In the AFC as statement it was clearly said that SWAFF can exist if it doesn’t interfere the AFC regional structure body that is SAFF.
The PFF, in fact, takes a great pride in its association with Bahrain Football Federation, who also pay Nogueira’s salary. The federation also sent their team to Bahrain for the preparation tour of the Asian Games.
But siding with SWAFF can mean going against Al-Khalifa in different ways, whereas, the Pakistan Football is not necessarily gaining much as the PFF could not even get a foreign tour to Saudi Arabia even before SAFF Championship.
SWAFF have the same nations as Saff alongside Iraq, the UAE, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait apart from Saudi Arabia.
While, according to the All India Football Federation’s Subrata Dutta, Ezzat would be visiting India and there will be friendlies. Hayat seemed to have failed to capitalise that opportunity for Pakistan team.
According to the Swaff website, Ezzat explained: “In Saudi Arabia we are very passionate about our football. The sport unites us as a nation and it can connect us to our region and the world. If sport is a universal language then none is spoken more fluently than football. We want to work with our colleagues from across our region — from both South and West Asia — to grow the game we love. Football stands poised on the threshold of growth, SWAFF has been established as supporting infrastructure for this growth and Saudi Arabia will grow along with it. We are delighted to play our part.”