March 29 – Pakistan risks being thrown out of world football after defying a FIFA-imposed normalisation committee by dramatically taking back control of the national federation.
Haroon Malik, chairman of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee, said he was forced to hand over accounts and cheque books following an attack on his office led by former PFF President Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah.
Pakistan has been plagued with allegations of rigged elections and government interference in the federation’s affairs but the latest move in the ongoing battle for control is unprecedented and looks certain to have dire consequences for Pakistan football.
The Shah-led PFF handed control to the normalisation committee in September 2019 but tensions have been brewing over the past few months over delays in holding elections.
The latest move reportedly happened hours after ExCo and Congress meetings on Friday when Shah and his supporters expressed their concern over the way NC had been working.
“I was working at the office when a mob, organised by Shah, barged into my office and asked me to hand over charge of the PFF and all bank accounts,” Malik told Al Jazeera.
“They restrained me and locked the doors, shouting and telling me to hand over the PFF to them. They were furious about not conducting the elections. I told them I will provide a roadmap and we should discuss it in a civilised manner.”
“FIFA takes these matters strongly and will likely ban Pakistan which means we won’t have functional football for five years. This will just kill football in the country.”
In 2015, Pakistan was banned by FIFA due to third-party interference and there are growing fears that Saturday’s events might lead to another suspension .
In another media interview, Malik added: “They stormed my room at around 1:30pm and started shouting. I told them to give me two minutes. I told them ‘let’s sit in the auditorium and talk’. Led by Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah they told me that they have decided to take possession.”
“I said ‘how it can happen as it will have grave implications over Pakistan’s football if FIFA suspends Pakistan’. They said they will handle the things. I told them let’s think before we do anything. They said ‘hand over and leave’. My whole staff was physically harassed.”
Shah gave a very different version of events saying he gave Malik and his staff “all the respect.”
“We went to meet him today and handed him the letter that we have got a mandate from the PFF Congress and ExCo to reassume the PFF charge,” Shah was quoted as saying.
“I told him that we had given NC the charge in good faith in September 2019 with the hope that it would hold the PFF elections in a fair and transparent way within the FIFA mandate. But it did not do anything in the past 18 months.”
“We had 20 people with us and had our intention been to harass him then he could not have left but we did not want anything so unpleasant. I have written 14 letters to FIFA during the last few months but the world body did not even reply.”
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