There is not a single sphere of life in Pakistan that is immune from the ill effects of politics. Even sporting bodies are heavily politicised. In a recent notification issued by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has been with immediate effect due to “undue third-party interference.”
The suspension means that PFF will lose its FIFA membership rights and will not benefit from any development programs, courses or training from FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
It is not the first instance where sports boards have become battlegrounds for politics. In recent past, we saw the controversy over the chairmanship of Pakistan Cricket Board as well. The issue only settled after Sheharyar Khan retired from his position. During his tenure, two equally powerful positions were created which left the board indecisive on many issues.
And then comes FIFA’s imposed ban on PFF. The reason given for imposing the ban on PFF is that the PFF offices and its accounts remain in control of a court-appointed administrator. This, in turn, is a violation of the PFF obligations to manage its affairs independently and without succumbing to any external party in accordance with the FIFA Statutes. The election of politician Faisal Saleh Hayat as PFF president two years ago and subsequent allegations of vote rigging meant football has effectively ground to a halt in the traditionally cricket-orientated country.
Though the decision of FIFA is reversible if PFF takes appropriate measures, however, it reflects the state’s interest in sports. There were times when Pakistan was a fertile ground for sports stars in squash, hockey, cricket, snooker, but now not a single sportsman can be found who enjoys world reputation. But today every single sports board is in the hands of unprofessional and political appointees.
In recent times when a growing number of youngsters are attracted to playing football, government’s inability to run relevant sports federation inefficiently will prove detrimental in the promotion of football. The state can capitalise on the increasing interest that the youth of the country is showing in football. Paying little attention to the promotion of the game will bring maximum outcome.
With active assistance from the state and no compromise on merit will ensure the de-politicisation of spot bodies. Only de-politicised sports organizations can uphold merit and find real talent. Otherwise, whatever limited infrastructure and organization sports bodies are left with will deteriorate further, if measures are not taken to stop politics in the fields of sports.