2022 to be a ‘New Dawn for Pakistan Football’?

Another year proved to be a terrible one for Pakistan football players, officials and community as no international activity could take place while the game destroyers further damaged Pakistan football that further weakened its roots in 2021. 
However, the year 2022 seems a good year for football fraternity and lovers in Pakistan. The interest of President Dr. Arif Alvi, PM Imran Khan and the dedication of Dr. Fehmida Mirza, who is playing the anchor role to resolve the long-standing football issue, have brought the matter close to the right ending. Asad Umer, Federal Minister and PM’s close and trusted ally, has also remained a strong and consistent backhand support towards the resolution of the crisis which has brought Pakistan into international disrepute since 2015, while the disappointing situation put the football community comprising of playing youth, referees, coaches and fans into a deep depression. The information that the federal government and the NC have reached to an agreement has been interpreted by the genuine football stakeholders of Pakistan as a real source of encouragement. 
Already deteriorated situation of Pakistan’s football was worsened on March 27, 2021, when the Ashfaq group politically took over the control of FIFA House Lahore ousting the NC, which was appointed in 2019 and recomposed on January 20, 2021 by FIFA to end the long-standing issues in Pakistan’s football. Ashfaq group, which came into power in result of PFF elections held on the orders of the Apex Court of Pakistan, had handed over complete charge to the FIFA PFF NC in September 2019 because these elections were never accepted by FIFA rather taken as third party interference. 
Ashfaq group re-occupied the headquarters early this year citing delay on the part of the NC in holding the PFF elections. However, NC Chairman Haroon Malik categorically refuted these claims referring to a media statement published prior to the Ashfaq group’s occupation, in which he had mentioned the intention of the NC to announce the elections road map in April, 2021. 
The FIFA very strongly reacted to this illegal and hostile act and issued a warning to the occupants of the PFF HQs to vacate the building in three days, otherwise, Pakistan’s FIFA membership will be suspended. Whether government of Pakistan, local and international football community, football fans or media, everyone not only condemned this illegal act but also tried to push the occupants to follow the FIFA instructions. 
All went in vain as the Ashfaq group didn’t hear any voice and stayed on the path leading to complete disaster. Resultantly, strictly standing for its warning, the FIFA suspended Pakistan’s membership with immediate effect. Pakistan, other than facing a global embarrassment and isolation in football, has paid a heavy price of the suspension which includes but not limited to the deprivation of its national teams to take part in the international football competitions, stoppage of all kind of development funds and education programmes. 
The Ashfaq group publically announcing ‘No Need of FIFA’ yet occupied the football house made up of FIFA grants and took the control of PFF bank accounts having the FIFA funds. To safeguard the FIFA funds, the NC immediately responded and went to the appropriate court of law to get the PFF accounts frozen and succeeded to get a stay order claiming to save a huge FIFA amount. 
The suspension from FIFA has caused Pakistan’s football to suffer immensely at domestic and international levels. Our national football teams of both genders and various age groups lost their right to participate in any international event. Pakistan was to host the SAFF Championship 2021; not only the hosting rights were withdrawn from Pakistan; its national team could not participate in the event held in Maldives. 
Withdrawal of hosting rights of SAFF Championship was the biggest blow for Pakistan’s football apart from all other deprivations including the stoppage of FIFA funds. The sources claimed the govt had taken the withdrawal of SAFF hosting from Pakistan seriously as it brought a considerable disgrace to the country. 
Last week, Federal Minister Asad Umar, IPC Secretary Mohsin Mushtaq and DG PSB Col (R) Asif Zaman held a detailed meeting with a four-member delegation of the NC headed by its chairman Haroon Malik. The sources said that the NC has shown commitment to hold elections within the constitutional time-frame. 
The 2021 will also be remembered for Pakistan’s football community, which, rising above all factional affiliations, raised strong voices for the revival of football. The community has high hopes that the government will maintain its keen interest in resolving this long-standing issue and the NC will timely hold free and fair PFF elections and immediately hand over the PFF reigns to the newly-elected PFF leadership, once it gets back the PFF control. To conclude, the year 2022 seems to be a ‘New Dawn for Pakistan Football’. 

Azhar Khan is an accomplished senior sports journalist with extensive experience in the field. He can be reached at azharmasood786@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @azharmasood786

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