by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: The country’s top military and civilian leadership might be involved to ensure Pakistan’s participation in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers to be held in June, credible sources told ‘The News’ on Monday.
Sources in the Ashfaq Hussain Shah-led Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) said that they would go to every level as it was the matter of the country’s prestige. “We will try our best to utilise every card and top level people of the military and civilian leadership may also play their role in ensuring Pakistan’s participation in the event,” a very well-connected source said.
The source said that FIFA-recognised PFF had rejected Ashfaq-led PFF’s offer that a joint committee should be formed, having members from both sides, and Pakistan team should be sent for the qualifiers irrespective of the differences between the two factions.
“But the things may work if top level people are involved,” the source was quick to add. Pakistan have been drawn with Cambodia in the qualifiers whose first leg will be held on June 6, and the second on June 11.
Ashfaq-led PFF has decided to hold a camp at the Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad, from May 5. As many as 32 players have been invited to the camp. A PFF source said 20 more would be added to the list on recommendations of the Technical Study Group (TSG) which witnessed the inter-city event.
The source said that it was yet to be decided whether foreign-based players would be invited to the camp which would be supervised by Pakistan’s experienced coach Tariq Lutfi. Tariq is yet to announce his support staff. He told ‘The News’ on Monday that very soon he would do so.
The PFF led by Faisal can field the team in the World Cup qualifiers but it may face legal issues at home. On the other hand, Ashfaq-led PFF cannot field the team in the qualifiers because it is not recognised by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Only the Faisal-led PFF can send the players’ list to the organisers. But a source in the Ashfaq-led PFF claimed that they would be trying their best to ensure their own list of players.
“Anything can happen,” the source said. A joint mission of FIFA and the AFC will be in Pakistan on May 28 and 29 to hold discussions with all parties in a bid to resolve the issue.
FIFA has already extended the mandate of the Faisal-led PFF until March 2020. Last year in December under the Supreme Court’s instructions the PFF elections were held and Ashfaq of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was elected as its chief.
On December 31, the FIFA-recognised PFF handed over the federation’s headquarters and accounts to the Ashfaq-led body under the apex court’s instructions. Since then Pakistan’s international engagement has suffered as the country failed to feature in the Olympic Qualifiers held last month in Uzbekistan.
Because of the conflict Pakistan missed several international events during the last four years. When FIFA lifted the ban last year, Pakistan featured in the Asian Games in Indonesia and SAFF Cup in Dhaka before playing a FIFA friendly against Palestine in Al-Ram. Pakistan also toured Doha for training in December to prepare for the Olympic and World Cup qualifiers.