by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: It was an association that lasted just five months.
The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) and the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) are going their separate ways.
That after SAFF announced on Tuesday that it is pulling out of the South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF) — the regional football body formed after extensive lobbying by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in May — after it met on the sidelines of Wednesday’s AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur.
“The SAFF comprising Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan unanimously decided to pull out of the SWAFF with immediate effect on Tuesday, 30 October 2018, in a meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,” the body said in a statement.
“The withdrawal precedes the expected official recognition of AFC’s five Regional Federations by the AFC Congress on Wednesday, 31 October 2018.”
The AFC and SWAFF had already agreed earlier that the new body wouldn’t interfere with the existing division of the Asian zones but the SAFF split comes at a crucial time. The AFC elections are due next year where incumbent Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa is being challenged by SWAFF president Dr Adel Ezzat, the former Saudi football chief.
The move also comes a day before the AFC goes for an important vote in its Congress regarding the amendment of one of its statutes that required candidates running for the position of president be nominated by the member association they represent.
Sources close to the matter have told Dawn that while Sheikh Salman wanted to change that clause, the Saudis weren’t in favour of amending it. With the 12-member SWAFF on their side, they had the controlling power if it went to a vote. A 3/4th majority from AFC’s 47 members is required to make the amendment.
The change will effectively allow Sheikh Salman to contest the AFC election without the need for nomination from the Bahrain Football Association (BFA), which is part of the SWAFF.
PFF IN LIMBO?
Well-placed sources also disclosed that the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) was the last to accept SAFF’s decision to withdraw from SWAFF with its president Faisal Saleh Hayat the last to be convinced that the move was the right one.
Rumours have been abound that Hayat had decided to back Ezzat in the AFC election after they met in Jeddah in August. Ezzat had nominated Hayat for the senior vice-president position in SWAFF, which he lost out to Maldives’ Mohammed Shaweed in an election.
The PFF had also welcomed the formation of SWAFF openly with its vice-president Sardar Naveed Haider Khan saying he hoped the funding from the new body would boost football in Pakistan.
Now, though, the situation has changed.
PFF’s move to withdraw from SWAFF could also impact the Pakistan-Saudi Arabian relations.
Gaining an influential position in global football is one of the key components in the kingdom’s plans of modernising its society and boosting its economy.
“SWAFF is the centre-piece for those plans and the Saudi government would’ve wanted Pakistan’s support in boosting the regional body,” the source said.
This month, the Saudi government sanctioned a $6billion bailout package for Pakistan to help the latter stave off its current financial crisis.
KARACHI: Pakistan and five other members of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) on Tuesday pulled out of the newly-constituted Saudi Arabia-led South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF) in an informal meeting of the SAFF nations on the eve of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress in Kuala Lumpur.
A source of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) told ‘The News’ after the meeting in the AFC headquarters that the six nations out of seven in the meeting unanimously withdrew their SWAFF candidature as members and pledged their support for the AFC chief Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa in AFC’s coming elections.
The six members are Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. The source said that Maldives, the seventh member, was also on the verge of severing ties with SWAFF. “Maldives has asked for a two-week time. It says that it will fulfill formalities for negotiating the case with its Executive Committee before formally withdrawing its SWAFF membership,” the source said.
“No SAFF nation went to the SWAFF meeting held today,” the source said.The SWAFF was formed in August this year with 14 countries joining hands. Former chief of the Saudi Arabia Football Association Adel Ezzat was made president while the All India Football Federation (AIFF) vice-president Subrata Dutta became the vice-president of the new football body in its first general assembly held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in August.
A PFF source said that Ezzat’s decision to contest the AFC elections against Salman in the April 2019 was the reason behind the pull-out of the SAFF nations from SWAFF.“SWAFF had actually been formed for the development of football in the region. But when Ezzat showed his intention to contest elections against the AFC chief, its political agenda became obvious, compelling SAFF nations to withdraw their candidature,” the source said.
Ezzat had resigned from the top post of Saudi Football Federation in August, expressing his intention to run for the presidency of the AFC. “I presented to (Saudi sports authority chief) Turki al-Sheikh my resignation from my position as of today,” Ezzat had said, according to Arab News.
“I will begin preparing for elections of the AFC which will be held next year,” Ezzat said.The source said that the PFF chief Faisal Saleh Hayat in the meeting said that Salman had served Asian region well. “Faisal said that Salman has worked tremendously for the growth of football at the grassroots level in Asia, particularly South Asia, and ‘we should stand by him’,” the source said.The source said that PFF had announced its full support to Salman in the coming elections.