by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI : Despite the dirty politics, shaming and power-plays by the former Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) officials, the Fifa appointed Normalisation Committee chairperson Humza Khan has taken the challenges head on as held a virtual press conference on Saturday afternoon.
These are extraordinary times and for one, it was refreshing to see the PFF head (albeit the head of the NC) and the appointed secretary Manizeh Zainli to interact with the media efficiently in the time of Covid-19 pandemic as the world stands paralysed.
“It is a global fight against coronavirus, and we thought this is a good time to inform everyone of what we are doing since there have been lots of questions regarding the NC” said Khan to set the momentum for mainly the brightest moment of the press conference, in context with the strange times that the world is experiencing in the form of the pandemic. “We have decided to offer one of our goal projects in Quetta to the Baluchistan government so that they can use the facilities.”
The second point that struck through was NC asking Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for the financial aid of the players and the referees, although the NC have limited funds, and have already been struggling as the previous PFF president Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat and his faction have not cooperated with the NC in providing the reports and audit documents which has made it difficult for the committee to access the full funding from Fifa.
“We’ve reached out to Fifa, where players and referees can get financial help,” announced Khan and Zainli in order to get some relief for the players and referees who are struggling in the time of Covid-19.
“We are not the kind of organisation that can support the players, because we have limited funds to even run our mandate. We have reached out to Fifa. Manizeh has been working with Fifa Dubai team, to ask if they can give us a specific funding to help the players and referees who are affected financially.
Meanwhile, PFF NC is working on the awareness programme, following Fifa’s directives. And working with World Health Organisation’s awareness campaign to send message to people to take preventive measures. “We are taking the non-financial steps already, but if we get the funding, it will help.”
Politics that never end
It has just been 180 days for NC, but the former officials who also happen to be politicians do not know patience, and they have created a very volatile environment for the Fifa-appointed NC.
The press conference was obviously more about the allegations from the PFF factions, like the one led by Amir Dogar, who claims to be the PFF vice-president now, and had issued a video message on social media, accusing the NC of spending funds carelessly, passing misogynistic comments on Zainli, who became the first woman to hold a general secretary’s responsibility in PFF’s history and saying that Khan is biased when it came to establishing the Provincial Normalisation Committees, claiming that the “real stakeholders are being ignored.”
As witnessed before, the former PFF officials have been nothing but players of a more political thought and have tried to bend the rules for themselves to hold the office in PFF.
Much like Hayat’s faction that ran the federation like a fiefdom since 2003, till 2015, when Hayat was trying to get elected for the fourth term but the PFF got split between two groups, what followed was a mockery of the system, and mostly mockery of politicians trying to keep their place in the office.
Fifa had backed Hayat much till 2018 and Hayat held the sport hostage as he took full advantage of Fifa’s support and did not let the game continue, whereas legal battles have been fought between the factions too.
It all came to a breakdown when the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered fresh elections of PFF in 2018, that saw Ashfaq Shah Group emerge victorious, while Hayat called it “third party intervention” and kept insisting on Fifa supporting him.
Finally, last year the Fifa mission visited and decided to appoint a normalisation committee to resolve the long-standing issue.
However, both Hayat’s faction and Ashfaq’s are not happy with Khan and are trying to destabilise the NC which intends to hold fresh elections as soon as possible.
Khan has assured The Express Tribune after the conference as well and repeated his goal of serving the PFF and Fifa efficiently by staying objective and put the football secretariat on track.
“There are only two factions, one is of Hayat, and the other is of Ashfaq Shah, and we have their representatives in the NC. Both factions are not happy with me, so I believe we must be doing something right, something good,” said Khan.
On the other hand he urged the NC critics to refrain from accusing them of corruption and especially from making comments on the current staff of the PFF.
Meanwhile, Khan added shrewdly, “My job is getting the elections done but not participate in it.”
Khan also, and rightly so, said that he can clarify what NC is doing but he cannot justify as he has been reporting regularly to Fifa and AFC and he is accountable for his job to them only.
“I want to do my best in bringing things to order. It has been 180 days and we’ve tried to do our best and that is my aim and we are learning too,” Khan told The Express Tribune.
Whereas during the conference call, as the journalists asked various questions regarding the allegations Khan said, “If they have any evidence against us they should come forward with it. We want to work with people, I invited Hayat too in Lahore, but they don’t want to work with us. We’ll hear the criticism and welcome it too, but it has to be valid and not baseless accusations. The staff that we hired after we got the mandate had to be competent and we are not getting exorbitant pay monthly, in fact they are getting paid less than their market value.”
He said that Fifa knew of his history with Karachi United, the club that he has played football for.
On the other hand, Zainli reminded that she may not be from a football background but she has the administrative experience in education sector and she will be doing her best to create a system that can help the PFF. After a month of her appointment as the secretary she has been working on the development of a website among other things, including audit reports, which is a difficult task as they do not have full reports given to them by the former administrators.
The PFF NC have the mandate and they were directed by Fifa that the elections should be held by June, however, with the pandemic and lockdown, the possibility of finishing the task seems impossible for now, and Khan added that he is corresponding with Fifa regularly, and most likely they will get enough time after June to hold the elections fairly.
The NC detractors have been propagating that the provincial normalistation committees are questionable too, but Khan assured that the goal of picking the individuals and having them onboard was to make sure that the election process takes place independently, transparently and without biases.
Fifa have expressed satisfaction with the PFF NC’s work so far officially as well.