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September 22, 2019

A tough task

Sports

September 22, 2019

And finally FIFA-appointed normalisation committee held its first meeting under its chairman Humza Khan in Lahore last Wednesday. The committee, as was expected, removed Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi. The committee wants to bring in a neutral secretary. Ashfaq-led PFF had informed FIFA if Lodhi acted as the secretary with the committee then they would not accept the committee.

The committee has authorised Humza to bring a new secretary. But who is neutral and who is not is a long debate. Already the committee’s composition has raised many eyebrows. Faisal Saleh Hayat faction has shown serious reservations over the appointment of Humza as chairman. The issue is that Humza is a former captain of Karachi United which is owned by Taha Ali Zia, who served as the legal counsel of Ashfaq group.

Humza was not a nominee of any of the groups. He was picked by FIFA.

Sources told me that Faisal group has informed FIFA about its reservations over the neutrality of the chairman. Questions have also been raised on the neutrality of other members of the committee. Both parties should have submitted neutral nominees with FIFA. That could have worked. The committee chairman has the powers of the PFF president. He needs to be a person who has no links with members or followers of either party.

There is still room to review the committee’s composition and amendments can be made to prevent any ugly situation.

For chairman’s selection FIFA should have taken input from both factions and brought in a consensus candidate.

With experience of covering Pakistan’s football for the last 18 years, I am not confident that the committee with its current composition will work effectively and meet its gigantic task of eventually holding elections of PFF.

The task of the committee is to conduct club scrutiny, hold elections at the district and provincial level before going for PFF elections in nine months. But the deadline is subject to change as club scrutiny is a long process and may take a lot of time.

Pakistan’s culture is highly complex and sports politics here is at its peak. You cannot take anything for granted and FIFA should take every step cautiously.

Alexandre Gros will monitor the whole working of the committee. Gros should know that the things are not that easy. Problems will come and the path is filled of thorns.

I wish the committee good luck. It will also run day-to-day affairs of Pakistan’s football. As FIFA and AFC will give operational funds to the committee effort should be made to launch Pakistan Premier Football League. The country has already missed three seasons since 2015, the year when the problem emerged. Only last season Premier League was held, mostly supervised by Faisal’s group with Ashfaq’s group taking over in the end.

Most of the footballers earn through Premier League and it is also the backbone of Pakistan’s football. After taking possession of the PFF headquarters and accounts the normalisation committee should announce the schedule of the Premier League as footballers and team officials are waiting for the season to start under the FIFA-appointed leadership.

It will also be the responsibility of the committee to ensure Pakistan’s participation in international events which will come in the time-frame in which the committee will work.

The committee has to treat all people fairly and equally. Otherwise, the committee could face serious consequences.

A member of the committee quite rightly says, “It’s now or never.”

If we missed this opportunity then football will always keep suffering. We don’t see any revolutionary person taking over as the PFF president and taking the country’s football up.

But still we should hope for the best. It’s time to correct the system and FIFA and the AFC may help the country with a 220 million population and with a huge potential in football. FIFA should take time and help the country elect its new PFF president.

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