Now that FIFA has finally restored the status of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), hundreds of footballers across the country can breathe easy, knowing that at the very least, there will be some movement toward defining a structure in the governing body of their sport in the near future. However, the future of the sport in Pakistan still remains a concern, with funding, opportunities and training programmes in short supply.
The Normalisation Committee restored by FIFA now has the arduous task of carrying out transparent elections for a new PFF governing body by summer next year. While the Normalisation Committee gets to work, it is hoped that the government and the court do not scupper the process by interfering once more. Tussles in the past between conflicting governing bodies—with some candidates supported by the government of the time—is why we were suspended in the first place. This time, the state must let the PFF be formed without any intervention so that there is no cause for FIFA to consider another suspension.
While cricket dominates the headlines, budgets and TV screens in terms of prominence, football’s popularity in Pakistan as a sport, both played and watched, cannot be overstated. Pockets of talent in both genders lie in the furthest reaches of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Lyari and everywhere else across Pakistan; opportunities to play however, are hard to come by. The right structure and support for football can help an entire generation of talent reach their potential; a national team for men and women and an ecosystem that allows for individuals to play both at home and abroad is crucial in unlocking the next phase of their development. It is hoped that the elections are carried out faithfully, and a new governing structure looks to bring Pakistani football from its underground status to the mainstream, where it truly belongs.