Sunday, October 17News That Matters

FIFA suspends Pakistan football after ‘hostile takeover’

Players, coaches blast rival group that took over Pakistan Football Federation HQ last month.

FIFA, football’s world governing body, has suspended the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) due to third-party interference.

A group of football officials, led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, who was elected as PFF president in the 2018 elections sanctioned by the Supreme Court but not recognised by FIFA, took over the headquarters last month and seized control from the PFF Normalisation Committee (NC) appointed by FIFA and headed by Haroon Malik.

FIFA said its decision to suspend the PFF was prompted by the “hostile takeover” which constituted a serious violation of its statutes.

“FIFA issued a letter warning that, should the illegitimate occupation of the PFF headquarters not be lifted and the office bearers recognised by FIFA not be permitted free access to the building to carry out their mandate, the matter would be immediately submitted to the Bureau of the Council for decision,” FIFA said.

“As the situation remains unchanged, the Bureau of the Council has decided to suspend the PFF.”

FIFA said the latest suspension will be lifted only once it has received confirmation from the NC that the PFF premises, accounts, administration and communication channels are again under its full control.

“Following up on the suspension, the Normalisation Committee can confirm that FIFA will take further action against the individuals involved in the hostile takeover,” the PFF NC said in a statement.

“It is highly unfortunate that due to the actions of few, the whole football eco-system of Pakistan – which includes players, officials and coaches – has to suffer and precious time and resources, which could have been spent towards the development of the sport in Pakistan, has to be wasted.”

Pakistan was also suspended by FIFA for third party interference in 2017.

“It’s very unfortunate for Pakistan that FIFA suspended PFF, and some people who have vested interests in PFF are responsible for it,” PFF NC head Malik told Reuters news agency. “I promise that soon PFF’s suspension will end.”

‘Extremely unfair’

Hajra Khan, captain of Pakistan’s women’s football team, said the incident was “embarrassing” and she was “disheartened”.

“This is the second time that FIFA has suspended Pakistan in the last five years,” Khan told Al Jazeera. “I feel disheartened. Football is the most followed sport in the world, but the way it’s being treated in Pakistan is extremely unfair.

“Our grassroots are amazing, there’s a massive talent pool. But it’s always facing disruption. It is about time people in power act to stop this political cycle. Our players just want to play football and represent Pakistan at an international level.”

Waleed Javed, coach of the Highlanders women’s team, said the impact of FIFA’s decision is “being felt by everyone – coaches, referees and the players”.

“For many of us, it is our only source of income,” Javed told Al Jazeera.

“If this is getting interrupted, how will we put food on our table? People will lose their jobs. Football is a means to provide for so many of us.

“The ban will affect youngsters at the developmental stage the most. This will deprive the upcoming generation to play internationally. The players’ spirit is remarkable but this chain of events has saddened all of us. The players were crying when the news about the takeover broke.”

Additional reporting by Hajira Maryam in Karachi, Pakistan