Football is by far the most popular sport in the world, but unfortunately in Pakistan, not many know about the crisis going on in Pakistan football at the moment. The people of Pakistan love Cricket so much, that they elected a Cricketer as Prime Minister as he won the World Cup. But unluckily, due to this love, they do not care much about all other sports.
If we compare Cricket and Football, Cricket is a sport having only 10 nations who play it regularly with only 12 having the test status. On the other hand, Football is played all over the world, by more than 200 nations. Football World Cup is second biggest sports event in the world. But Pakistanis ignore it so much that most of the people do not even care that Pakistan Football Federation is on brink of another ban by FIFA. Can you imagine the anger of the nation if PCB was going to be banned by ICC?
The crisis have been going on in Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) since 2015. FIFA, the International body of Football does not like any type of interference by any third party like government, courts and political parties in the affairs of Football federations.
Faisal Saleh Hayat, a former minister, ruled PFF for 12 years, from 2003 to 2015, but during his tenure, Pakistan’s ranking was going down and down. In 2015 PFF elections, there was chaos and conflicts between Faisal Saleh Hayat and the opposition group. A parallel body was formed and the issue was taken to the courts. All these events resulted in FIFA suspending the PFF in 2017.
Pakistan Football suffered a lot as they could not participate any events for almost a year. In 2018, FIFA decided to form a normalization committee for PFF, after which Pakistan were allowed to participate in 2018 Asian Games and 2018 SAFF Championships. The normalization committee was also supposed to hold a fair elections, without any controversy so that the affairs of federation could be run in the right manner.
The elections were not held and FIFA had to change the normalization committee again in 2020. On the other hand Supreme Court ordered the elections of PFF to be held in 2018. Ashfaque Hussain was elected as President in the controversial elections, but FIFA did not recognize these elections, as they do not like interference of any courts in the matter.
Normalization committee was organizing National Women’s Championship in March 2021 and all was going well, until Ashfaque Hussain group decided to storm into the Football house in Lahore. Haroon Malik, who was made incharge of the normalization committee of PFF was asked to leave the headquarters and hand over the office to Ashfaque Hussain. Haroon Malik left the headquarters after breaking the glass. Now according to Ashfaque Hussain group and the videos, he broke the glass himself although he was asked to leave the office politely, but Haroon Malik says he was harassed and thrown out of the headquarters.
Either way, FIFA was furious after knowing that Ashfaque Hussain group has taken the charge of Football house by force. Normalization committee decided to abandon the National Women’s Football Championship after the incident. The women footballers were heartbroken and distressed for obvious reasons, as there are not many opportunities for women footballers in Pakistan. Some players even resigned from their jobs to participate in the event.
Ashfaque Hussain group told teams to stay in Karachi and announced the schedule of Quarterfinal matches. They said the championship would continue and players should not be worried about the matter.
On the other hand, FIFA gave a warning to Ashfaque Hussain group that the Football house must be vacated by 8 pm on 31 March, and should be handed over to Haroon Malik again. Or else PFF would be suspended by FIFA once again. But Ashafque Hussain was not moved at all, as according to him, if he vacated the headquarter, it will be contempt of court. Ashfaque Hussain believes it is his right to be in power as Supreme Court had ordered him to take charge of the PFF.
Ashfaque Hussain said that he had handed over the matter to normalization committee in 2019 but Normalization committee has not held any elections, nor they have done much for Football in Pakistan since then. He believes that FIFA must hold Haroon Malik and others accountable and ask them where they spent the funds and money given to them by FIFA.
During all the fiasco, Pakistani footballers are the ones who are suffering the most. National women’s football Championship has been abandoned once again, as the clubs Masha United and Highlanders decided to withdraw from event after all the chaos.
The national footballers are continuously asking Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to look into the matter. But reportedly, Ashfaque Hussain group has support of some of the politicians and nobody cared to ask them to leave the office before deadline.
National footballer Abiha Haider uploaded a video recently, in which he asked FIFA to look into the matter before suspending the federation. She said that players in Pakistan love football and do not have to do anything with politics and power struggle. She said that those who are becoming the reason of this chaos must be punished so that it does not happen again.
Kaleemullah, the former captain of National Men’s Team was also disappointed after the whole episode and wanted an end to this problem. He asked Prime Minister Imran Khan, CJP and COAS to do something for the sport. He said it would be disastrous if PFF is suspended for 5 years again. He urged everyone to stop ignoring football, which is resulting in ruining the image of Pakistan in the football world.
Now it is duty of every football lover in Pakistan to raise his voice and save the PFF from suspension. We must realize that capable people must come in control of PFF, as current power struggle surely shows none of them cares much about the sport and are doing all this only for their personal gains.
Writer is a sports lover, who passionately watches Cricket, Football, Tennis and especially all sports featuring Pakistan. Previously worked for 4 mainstream channels Dawn, Samaa, Dunya and 92 News in past. Currently working with GNN.