KARACHI: Pakistan midfielder Saddam Hussain doesn’t think that FIFA’s suspension of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) would have any impact on the stalled state of the country’s football or force the bickering factions of the federation to resolve their differences.
Football’s world governing body moved to suspend the PFF on Wednesday citing third party involvement in the PFF’s affairs, following a takeover of the federation’s offices by a Lahore High Court-appointed administrator.
Some might have thought the decision would finally knock some sense into the two factions, one of which is led by four-time PFF President Faisal Saleh Hayat. But Hussain, a midfielder for the national team, is not holding his breath for that to happen as he points out that all footballing activity has already been suspended in Pakistan for more than two years.
“FIFA’s decision looks more like an attempt to pander to the egos of PFF officials,” Saddam told The Express Tribune. “We haven’t been playing football for the last two years anyway, and even when we were, the domestic game was already in shambles. With no Pakistan Premier Football League or even a Division B league, the departmental teams are shutting down.”
Pakistani football a dirty Game of Thrones
Saddam was hoping for a more hands-on approach by the world governing body. “I was hoping for FIFA to forget PFF officials, send their people here, observe the situation and make efforts perhaps to start football again,” he said. “But this is just another long, dark night for us. Look at the U15, U18 players who recently missed out on South Asian Football Championships. Meanwhile, the national players, are looking for opportunities in even the lowest leagues abroad. What have the PFF officials — on either side — done for our sport?”
However, he believes charity must begin at home. “We can’t complain to FIFA because our own people are not interested,” he said. “They don’t care about the players or the sport. They have no vision. Football shouldn’t have stopped in the first place. The same thing happened in Indonesia, [but] their football didn’t stop.”
Saddam, who was a part of the team when Pakistan last played an international fixture — a defeat to Yemen in a 2018 World Cup qualifier two years ago — says his heart breaks every time he sees other nations qualify for World Cups while his national team finds itself in the mess that is the PFF.
PFF suspended by FIFA
“We’ve been watching the World Cup qualifiers,” he said. “Look at Egypt making their way to Russia, look at Iceland… the children there would now dream of becoming footballers. And what did we do?”
The former FC Dordoi player also revealed the situation was just as bleak even before the PFF’s infighting began and that most of the time the national team participated in qualifiers just to make up the numbers, with no real chance of succeeding, thanks to the officeholder’s uncaring attitude.
“Our training camps lasted for mere two or three months, and even during that time we were pitted in practice matches against the likes of Lyallpur FC,” he recalled. “How can you expect a team to have any chance of qualifying when it had such low training standards? From there on the entire campaign became just a formality.”
Saddam also bemoaned the lack of a vision for the future. “Other countries plans and begin their preparations more than four years in advance,” he said. “The PFF also had four years between the 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifiers but they didn’t deem that window important enough to plan.”
Hayat’s extensions ends, PFF’s problems don’t
Saddam also recalled an instance in 2012 when Saudi Arabia refused to play friendlies with Pakistan as they felt that the national team didn’t provide enough of a challenge to test their players.
“We are looked down upon even though we give our all,” he said. “It is the federation’s job to devise a proper roadmap for taking the sport further in the country. We lost to Yemen, a war-torn country that couldn’t even play its matches in their own country. Compare their federation to ours’ and the difference will be of vision.”