FIFA's complacency pushes Pakistan football backwards

Published: October 7, 2018
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PHOTO: EXPRESS

PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: Finally the mail popped up on Friday evening, not that there was much to expect but FIFA replied more like an agency bound to protect, promote and endorse the politicians who have been responsible for damaging the beautiful game of football in Pakistan.

It sent out a loud and clear message that it really does not care about how football is run in the smaller nations, when in fact it is their job to make every possible effort to assure the transparency in countries like Pakistan.

But the message is clear that FIFA cannot care much about it because they have better things to do. They cannot investigate and their complacency in the Pakistan Football Federation’s case is appalling, as the association is run by a politician Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, who has been accused of fund embezzlement too, never finishing any of the FIFA goal-projects either and only using the federation to increase his clout.

Since his president-ship started in 2003, football has not thrived much. Pakistan hit the worst FIFA rankings at 203 in last three years, courtesy his ambition to stay in the office and compromising all football activities, domestic and international, making the players suffer and making them lose their time.

FIFA’s Member Association Committee discussed the PFF’s case on September 26, but it took them almost a week to even send their decision out to the media.

But FIFA is contradicting itself sentence by sentence.

“We can confirm that the situation of the Pakistan Football Federation was discussed by FIFA’s Member Associations Committee on September 26, 2018,” FIFA Spokesperson said in the email.

“During its discussions, the Committee underlined that the original mandate of the PFF executive committee (i.e. June 2015 until June 2019) should in principle be respected.

“However, it acknowledged that certain important steps needed to be taken to ensure that the PFF elections are carried out properly. In particular, the Committee noted that the PFF Statutes need to be aligned with the requirements of FIFA and the FIFA Statutes as well as that the clubs eligible to participate in the electoral process have to be scrutinized.”

FIFA here fails to explain why they gave Hayat a two-year extension in September 2015 too.

Back then if they had sent the three-member mission to look at the facts, and admitted that PFF statutes are faulty and not updated as per FIFA requirement, why did the international body even bother to give that two-year extension when they found inconsistencies, not that Hayat had any shortage of time prior to 2015 to update the PFF statutes.

Meanwhile, the FIFA Member Association Committee is not reportedly not full of saints. It has officials in it like Central African Repulic’s Patrice Edouard Ngaissona, who is former militia leader and had been pointed out by the human rights groups for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, which he denies.

And another member like Seirra Leone’s Isha Johansen enjoys unconditional support from FIFA, despite being charged for abuse of power in the office and misuse of public funds by her own country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.

In fact, he manipulated them to win his fourth term with the help of a tailored Congress, with members who have nothing to do with football that selected him as the President in Changla Gali that year, despite Lahore High Court’s order to not hold the elections at all.

In essence, FIFA has done nothing to improve the situation and the case stays right where it was in 2015. It only added to unnecessary drama, as at the end of the day, they are now giving more time to Hayat, till 2020, which is more than his term period, even if they accepted his 2015 election. His term should finish in 2019, but now FIFA has only given him more time, which casts a big question. If Hayat never ratified the PFF statutes during his early two-year extension, why would he do it now?

FIFA had not explicitly accepted his 2015 elections either, but only left the case half-baked with a two-year extension.

Similarly, Hayat did not hold a single congress meeting since march either when the PFF got its suspension lifted, which FIFA imposed in October 2017.

Question is why did FIFA even suspend Pakistan? When they only ended up giving more time to the same officials again, despite pointing out that they have not been running the federation properly in more ways than one.

The FIFA statement continues: “Based on the aforementioned, the Committee decided that the PFF needs to revise its statutes in order to align them with the requirements of FIFA and the FIFA Statutes and, in parallel, carry out the scrutiny of the clubs.

“Once these steps have been completed, elections of a new PFF executive committee shall be held in a timely manner, but at the latest by the end of March 2020. The Committee further mandated the FIFA administration to elaborate a roadmap laying out the aforementioned steps and taking into account the input of the PFF.”

It is evident that FIFA is complacent when it comes to Pakistan football. Either they really fail to see the potential of the country of more than 200 million people, where football is a popular sport, or they fail to see the damage Hayat has done, victimising players for merely speaking up about the lack of professionalism by the PFF, like former captain Kaleemullah.

FIFA fails to acknowledge that Hayat’s congress is manipulated and has members like Sardar Naveed Haider, whose son also happen to be working for FIFA, and who end up threatening journalists and players for telling the loop holes in PFF’s  way of working.

FIFA have mentioned that the scrutiny of clubs need to happen, but in PFF’s case a shining example is that of Rubina Irfan, former senator, who owns Balochistan United Women FC and still happens to be the chairperson of the PFF women’s wing. Her club has no grass-roots level program and poaches players from other departments.

In men’s football, there had been no proper club licensing either and in the on-going Pakistan Premier Football League, they believe that adding ‘FC’ next to departmental teams like Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force and even Khan Research Laboratories team would make it less obvious that Hayat has done nothing in his tenure to professionalise the sport for the benefit of the players. The league has been a sham too.

The sponsors had been purposefully scared away as that would require the PFF to take the sport as a business but Hayat has run it like personal property to make connections at FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation.

All that seems to pay off well in this case, and FIFA had been a big help for him.

So the question lies, is FIFA not changing its ways and only further contributing to the sports corruption culture, so far it seems so.

Meanwhile, 2019 is an election year for FIFA and AFC, and Pakistan may just be a vote to manipulate by the bigger players in the arena.

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