Pakistan’s football affairs are heading towards sanctions by FIFA which will add to the destruction of the sport in a country which a year ago was counted as a fast-improving South Asian nation. Football was turning into a game which had the capacity to pull crowds. But unfortunately since April 2015 football has been inactive in Pakistan which has raised concerns among the stakeholders, particularly the players who are facing huge financial losses.
Pakistan missed several international events during the past 13 months and those players who would earn 100 dollars per day during their international engagements have now been compelled to run their houses through the meagre salaries they get from their departments.
In the last year, top-ranked players could have got opportunities to play in foreign leagues, but it did not happen as they did not get any exposure.
A few days ago a few footballers put their heads together and decided that they need a players association to safeguard their rights. But I have learnt that they have been facing problems in forming the body which could put a lot of pressure on the warring factions whose motives are to grab power.
The litigation process which had been initiated after the controversial elections of Punjab Football Association (PFA) in April last year continues in Lahore High Court (LHC).
A few days ago, as per claims of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), LHC dismissed the petitions of the Faisal Saleh Hayat-led Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) which it had filed challenging the legal entity of the Board.
But those affected could go for intra-court appeal before going to Supreme Court which will further waste crucial time of national footballers, who missed their Premier League last year and are on the verge of missing another. The league is a source of earning money for the players.
The root cause is the controversial election of Punjab Football Association (PFA) in late April 2015.
Following a series of complications the PFF imposed sanctions on 20 leading members of PFA, which infuriated Faisal’s rival group headed by Arshad Lodhi. It held an extraordinary congress meeting in Islamabad that suspended Faisal and terminated secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi. Arshad was made acting PFF president and Col Farasat acting secretary.
Politician Kashmala Tariq was made chairperson of the women wing. After a few days Arshad group occupied the PFF headquarters in Lahore.
The PFF held its elections on June 30, 2015, at Changla Gali in which Faisal was re-elected as the PFF chief for the fourth successive time. The election was held in the presence of an observer of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The LHC had issued a stay order against the elections on June 29.
The PFF congress member and former health minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Zahir Shah had been fielded to contest the election for the PFF presidency against Faisal. He stayed away from it following the court’s stay order.
Faisal’s rival group filed a contempt case in the LHC which declared the June 30 election null and void and appointed Justice Asad Muneer as administrator to conduct audit of the PFF and run its day-to-day affairs.
In early August last year FIFA intervened and sent its three-member fact-finding mission to Lahore to investigate the matter. The delegation held marathon meetings with both parties and submitted the report to FIFA.
FIFA executive committee gave Faisal-led PFF two years until September 2017 and instructed it to revise its constitution and hold PFF elections afresh during the period.
However, due to the legal tussle FIFA’s decision has not been followed till date.
In sports adherence to international law is as important as to local law. FIFA does not accept any interference in the affairs of its national associations. The general council of a federation is the supreme body and no one can impose its decisions on it. In the battle between Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), the government had to bow before the international laws and had to accept Arif Hasan-led POA following a lengthy war against the POA that wasted almost two years of national sports.
As far as the tenure restriction clause is concerned, International Olympic Committee (IOC) had advised the POA to convene its general council and discus whether it needs such a clause or not. The POA convened its general body meeting in which it was decided that there was no need of any tenure restriction clause for its office-bearers.
In football too international laws are likely to prevail as FIFA will not favour any move which might unsettle its duly recognised national association.
Had FIFA’s ExCo decision been accepted in September last year by Faisal’s rival group, it would have prevented football from destruction and the constitution would have been modified very much in line with FIFA’s statutes.
It is FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) which are developing football in Pakistan. The contribution of Pakistan government in football development is nil.
It is time the stakeholders put their heads together and sorted out the most viable solution to the problem under the laws of FIFA which has announced a major increase in the development fund for its national associations under the leadership of Gianni Infantino.
The POA chief Lt Gen (retd) Arif Hasan and federal minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Riaz Hussain Pirzada should intervene and play a due role in resolving this conflict.
The Faisal group has its flaws, but the people in Arshad group are equally responsible for the mess. Being PFF congress members had they made an effort to make congress more powerful, the mess could have been avoided. It was because of the weak PFF congress that those in power managed to do whatever they wanted. The game is bigger than the individuals and they must protect it.