by Alam Zeb Safi
Days after FIFA decided to appoint a normalisation committee for the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), Ashfaq Hussain-led PFF opted to take action against those players and officials who were part of the Pakistan team during the World Cup Qualifiers first round against Cambodia recently.
Pakistan had lost both their matches against a comparatively strong Cambodia.
It was evident that the Ashfaq body would take action against the players and officials who featured in the legal event conducted by FIFA. The Ashfaq-led body was not recognised by FIFA. It did not even communicate with the body when it announced that a normalisation committee would be constituted to resolve Pakistan’s issue.
“Cases of above mentioned officials and players are being referred to PFF disciplinary committee for adjudication. However in the meantime these players will not participate in any football competition and activities till finalisation of their cases,” said a letter released by Ashfaq’s body on July 8.
The players are Umar Hayat (WAPDA), Ahmed Faheem (WAPDA), Ali Uzair (WAPDA), Muzammil Hussain (WAPDA), Mohammad Riaz (K-Electric), Ali Khan (K-Electric), Mehmood Khan (SSGC), Ahsanullah (SSGC). The officials are Mohammad Habib (WAPDA), Mohammad Essa (K-Electric) and Shehzad Anwar (PAF).
The action was taken because according to Ashfaq-led body these eight players did not join the camp which it held in Islamabad. And the three officials went abroad without taking NOC from what it calls the “legitimate” body.
The Ashfaq-led PFF had also stopped some key players of Pakistan from featuring in the World Cup qualifiers by engaging them in the Islamabad camp. They knew that they would not be able to field their team in the qualifiers but still they held a training camp at the Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad, in order to counter the then FIFA-recognised PFF’s move to field Pakistan team in the World Cup qualifiers.
But I think they will achieve nothing from any action they might take against the players and the officials. This group claims that it is the saviour of Pakistan’s football. But their actions speak loud that they have inflicted an unprecedented damage on Pakistan’s football.
Had this body allowed top players to become part of the World Cup qualifiers, Pakistan now would have been in the second round.
Once normalisation committee takes charge, all actions of Ashfaq-led body will cease to have any meaning.
As FIFA may take some time in appointing members of its normalisation committee, the immediate damage the sanctioned players and officials may face is that they would not be able to feature in the National Challenge Cup which Ashfaq’s body plans to hold in Peshawar’s Tehmas Khan Stadium from July 19. This would be a big loss to the players and the officials who not be able to represent their organisations.
The Ashfaq’s PFF’s real battle was with the formerly FIFA-recognised PFF headed by Faisal Saleh Hayat. So there is no reason to take any action against the players and the officials who played in the qualifiers against Cambodia. The Ashfaq-led body should have taken action against Faisal for fielding Pakistan team in the qualifiers and taking the services of these eight players and three officials. But they find it easier to make the players and the officials suffer.
The people with such thinking cannot achieve anything big. It would be better if Ashfaq-led body reconsidered its decision. These are leading players and officials of Pakistan and they should be allowed to represent their departments in the Challenge Cup in Peshawar. They did not feature in any rebel event but World Cup qualifiers and for their own country. Another point which I want to highlight here is that both the groups now should pack as normalisation committee will take charge in a few weeks.
There is no need to spend lavishly from the PFF exchequer on Challenge Cup which in the eyes of FIFA will have no value. There is no need of organising any district league or holding trials for Pakistan’s age-group teams. Football has already been destroyed. Give chance to the normalisation committee. It is FIFA and AFC which finance football in Pakistan and we are bound to follow their rules. We should respect the bodies which have spent billions on Pakistan’s football.
The mandate of the normalisation committee is to run day-to-day affairs of Pakistan’s football, and hold elections at district, provincial and PFF levels after a club scrutiny, which is the primary and most important task which the committee will have to undertake.
It is yet to be seen whether Ashfaq-led body will cooperate with the committee. If it does not Pakistan may face suspension.
Former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa has rejected the action taken against him and the others by the Ashfaq-led body.
“Initially these people were alleging that the services of foreign players were being taken on rent and home-based players were not being given chances. But when eight home-based players featured in the qualifiers they now are taking action against them,” Essa told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS) in an interview.
He said that neither he nor his department had received any letter from the Ashfaq-led body.
“In my case, the Ashfaq-led body has neither written to me directly nor to my department. It kept sharing the letters through social media which had no value. I will go to court and protest against the Ashfaq-led body’s stance,” Essa said.
“Because of these people football suffered a lot during the last four years and now they have started taking action against those players and officials who were part of the Pakistan team in the qualifiers. Why doesn’t this body take any action against the foreign-based players who featured in the World Cup qualifiers! They only targeted home-based players,” said Essa, who was an assistant coach during Pakistan’s World Cup campaign. Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira was Pakistan’s coach.