by Alam Zeb Safi
When the FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee regained control of the PFF headquarters it seemed that the matter would get resolved soon. The hope was further raised when FIFA Congress agreed that the suspension should be lifted in Pakistan’s case once all pertinent matters were resolved. But matters have not progressed. NC is yet to get the accounts which were stayed through a court order after the Ashfaq group re-occupied the headquarters last year. Although this matter appeared it is now getting complicated.
The NC had prayed in the court that the matter should be heard on a day-to-day basis and it has been learnt that the court has reserved its decision. On the other hand, the Ashfaq group has approached Lahore High Court and a hearing will be held on April 18.
It seems that the legal fight between NC and the Ashfaq group over the accounts will take some more time and so we need to be patient. Players are impatiently waiting for the return of football activities both at domestic and international levels. The NC should give them hope. A big issue is that there is no one who loves the game. We all work for our vested interests and that is why we have destroyed this beautiful sport. I also request the courts to get the accounts matters resolved soon as our footballers cannot afford further delay. When the NC gets accounts, it will write to FIFA and suspension will be lifted.
In the meantime, the federal government has also changed. NC’s chairman Haroon Malik should meet the new government both at the federal and Punjab levels. I think Haroon is in Canada. He should now come to Pakistan permanently for a few months so that he could work properly and get the matters resolved.
In the meantime, the NC should get in touch with the football stakeholders and players and keep them informed about its plans. The NC will need to work on the Premier League and other events which it will have to conduct once the ban is lifted.
Football in Pakistan has suffered on various fronts. Around seven years have already been wasted due to various reasons. During this time, we saw several departments disbanding their teams and thousands of footballers were left jobless. It gives me immense pain when I see some international players doing odd jobs. Some players are in a real predicament, not knowing what to do as they cannot do odd jobs and have become psychiatric patients.
The new Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif should withdraw the notification of the PTI regime in which various departments had been asked to stop funding their sports teams and divert funds to support regional teams.
It will be a great service if Shahbaz reverses the decision taken by the previous government. It will not only save the careers of footballers but will also save the bread and butter of thousands of players of other sports disciplines who have been compelled to do odd jobs as they are to feed their children. It’s a tough time for the players. Shahbaz should also order those departments to restore their sports teams which had done that much before the notification of the previous government.
Footballers are planning to record a protest in front of the Parliament House in the next few days. They will demand the restoration of departmental sports.
Players of other sports disciplines should also press the current government so that departmental sports could be restored.
Our sports system cannot run without departments. The issue is that there is no sponsorship and the corporate sector is not willing to back sports other than cricket. In cricket, too, players are suffering following closure of departments. And some cricketers have demanded that Shahbaz restore departmental cricket. If we don’t give jobs to our players we will not be able to sustain the growth of our sports. It’s time to restore departmental sports. Not only will it give relief to those players who have already suffered but will also create a hope for the upcoming talent.