by Alam Zeb Safi
In recent days, we have received some good news about Pakistan football. It seems that things are changing rapidly. Sindh and Punjab governments want to hold football leagues. Besides this, the six-year-old football dispute is going to be resolved soon as a huge development has occurred on the directives of the Prime Minister.
Asad Umar, a federal minister, held a detailed meeting with the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee in Islamabad in which he advised the IPC ministry to dispose of the issue and ensure the handover of the FIFA Football House in Lahore to the NC. However, it seems to have been delayed because the IPC minister Dr Fehmida Mirza was abroad. She was expected to return on January 7.
An agreement regarding the elections of the PFF has already been reached between the government and the NC. The government will act as a guarantor in the whole process. It will never influence the elections process which will be held under the PFF Constitution. FIFA does not allow any state interference and the state will have to ensure that NC follows the roadmap, specifically the time-frame which it has shared with the state. One hopes things will go in the right direction.
But it is not as simple as it might seem. The state may face some legal complications. From discussions with the Ashfaq group, I have come to know that they are not happy with the whole process. The group does not trust the NC. However, now some flexibility seems to have been shown by the group. It wants elections within six months but if the state hands over the PFF headquarters to NC without consulting the group then it will go to court and file a contempt of court petition against the government.
A key source has told me that the group will cooperate if the state consults it. In that case the group will convene its Congress meeting and get its approval to hand over the administrative charge of the PFF to the NC. The source said that the group also wants peaceful elections but as its body has been established as a result of the Supreme Court-ordered elections, it has its weightage and mandate until 2022.
The FIFA Football House is nowadays in the possession of Lahore’s government.
FIFA has extended the mandate of the NC for six months until June 30, 2022. NC had been installed by FIFA in September 2019 in order to resolve the issue. However due to various reasons nothing was done towards the PFF elections. Covid-19 was one of the reasons besides NC’s own weaknesses.
Haroon Malik-led NC now seems to be in the mood to hold elections. As per PFF Constitution, the electoral process may take eight months and it seems that FIFA will have to give another three months to enable the NC to smoothly undertake the handover process to the new elected body. Challenges are still there in the way of the NC as legal issues may arise, especially when it goes for club registration and scrutiny process as huge disparity exists on that front.
Moreover, it is also expected that state departments will cease to exist as they have to abolish their sports teams and football will definitely suffer. Yes, as departments have nine votes so without them the PFF elections can be held as quorum will be complete even without their participation. It is a subject which should not unsettle the NC and it should go for elections once it regains control of the PFF headquarters in Lahore.
FIFA has promised it will restore Pakistan’s membership once the NC regains the PFF headquarters and accounts control. The big benefit of the resumption of the process will be the revival of international football. Asian Games are the major event which China will host in September and the preparation for this quadrennial event should also be the priority of the NC. It should recruit a foreign coach immediately and a training camp should be set up for it.
The NC will have to keep liaison with the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) for confirming the national football team’s entry in the Asian Games. The NC also will have to keep an eye on other international events and the next year’s South Asian Games which Pakistan will host by March 2023 should also be kept in mind. We will have to prepare a very good team for that. It will be a very good chance to win this event in our own backyard.
Another huge plus point for Pakistan football is that due to fine efforts from Global Soccer Ventures (GSV), 20 top Pakistan players will get training at the Ireland’s famous club St Patrick’s Athletic FC. GSV, whose chief executive is no stranger to football as he is Zabe Khan, a former sports manager of K-Electric, has entered into a three-year deal with Athletic FC. A foreign coaching panel, comprising some great names, is due to arrive in Pakistan on January 14 to hold trials in ten cities. The 20 players will be sent to Dublin to be trained by the Athletic FC.
During trials some highly talented players will also be picked for the franchise-based Pakistan Football League (PFL) which GSV plans to hold later this year.
Some may also get professional contracts with the same club which has its academies of different age-groups.
One thing which I want to mention here is that there is a general conception that GSV may face legal issues in handling its projects if a new PFF body takes charge as a result of the scheduled future elections. GSV brokered the 15-year-deal with the Ashfaq group which is not recognized by FIFA. But I don’t think it should be a big issue for the new elected body which definitely would like Pakistan’s football to flourish. Yes, the new body may want some amendments to the already signed agreement.
One hopes that things go well as the whole nation wants to see Pakistan football flourish.