by Alam Zeb Safi
For the last few years I have been consistently writing on the problems of Pakistan football, the most unfortunate sport in the country despite its huge following. Politics and litigation have destroyed the game, snatching bread and butter from millions of people directly involved in the sport. FIFA last year in September installed a Normalisation Committee for holding elections at the district, provincial and PFF levels but unfortunately the committee has so far not been able to hold elections.
The principles of neutrality should have been followed in the whole electoral process. Success could come in that case only. In that way only can the stakeholders’ confidence be built.
The NC composition from the very outset has remained controversial. And the outcome, as was anticipated, is not encouraging.
There are unconfirmed reports that the NC chairman Humza Khan has resigned. Neither Humza has confirmed it nor did FIFA give any confirmation when I wrote to it. When I asked Humza he refused to make any comment on this issue. When I asked his spokesman the other day about his resignation he out-rightly rejected the news.
People of a group say that this is part of propaganda against Humza. In a few days the situation will become clear. Some sources say that an effort is being made to replace Humza. If that is the case, it is not a wise decision to replace only Humza. There is a need to recompose the whole NC afresh and give it six months to hold the PFF elections.
The new chairman should be from within the real football community who knows each and everything right from the club level to the federation level in order to handle the situation adroitly. Otherwise the outcome would not be different. The NC members should be completely neutral and outside the ring of the football stakeholders.
Some sources say that an influential person is lobbying for a former Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Director General to replace Humza.
The sources told me at the time of writing this piece (December 10) that Humza had a meeting with AFC and FIFA officials on Thursday. However, Humza denied he had had any such meeting.
I would advise the AFC to play a neutral role. If it does not act with neutrality it will be eventually responsible for the whole mess. And it will damage its image badly. There is nothing difficult in holding elections if a neutral stance is taken. You have to hold elections under the PFF Constitution. If there are irregularities in the electoral process the system will not be corrected. It will make the situation even worse.
There are still legal issues in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The system will only be corrected if fair and transparent elections are held at district and provincial levels. By doing so right people would form the associations at district and provincial level. And they would then choose the right candidate for the PFF top slot.
Currently, the situation is really complicated. If FIFA suspends Pakistan as is being feared, it will be destructive for the sport.
It is time AFC and FIFA took such a decision that could save Pakistan’s football from further damage. The task of holding the PFF elections is simple as you have to handle the things under already set rules and regulations. Nothing new is required. A group of highly principled people is required to do the job.
There is no room for any more mistakes. The situation needs tactful handling. Football cannot face any further hiccups. Because of the mess, we lost some superb footballers who could have helped Pakistan boost its world ranking. We lost our bench strength because of the dispute as we could not field our age-group teams in various international events during the last few years. Our coaches’ education suffered and our domestic events could not be organised for several seasons.
Even the important task of AFC Club Licensing could not be completed because of this issue although a good start had been made. The issue inflicted a huge financial loss on our players and coaches. Some departments were closed which left so many players jobless. Youth seems to have moved away from the game. If we don’t offer safe future opportunities to our youth they will no more take interest in the sport.
I would advise AFC and FIFA to take input from Prime Minister Imran Khan. He knows international rules and his involvement in the matter may help them resolve the long-standing dispute and ensure fair and transparent elections. I know that FIFA does not want any state interference but Imran, being a legendary cricketer, may help FIFA and AFC in the matter. Let’s take a judicious decision.