Back on the field: FIFA removes Pakistan ban

Shahrukh Sohail Shahrukh Sohail

Through an email confirmation to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), Fédération Internationale de Football Association ended the ban it instated in October, 2017 citing third party interference in the Federation’s affairs.

The bone of contention that had dogged Pakistan since 2015 and had instigated a war between two factions led by Faisal Salah Hayat and his one-time ally Zahir Shah came to a close as the Lahore High Court ruled in favour of incumbent President Faisal. While the other party could still go the Supreme Court for an appeal, the decision led to the removal of the court-appointed administrator and ultimately, removal of the ban by FIFA.

Complicated by politics, the Pakistan National Team hasn’t played a single game since their 3-1 FIFA World Cup qualifying loss against Yemen in 2015, but the news of the ban’s removal spread like wildfire amongst football circles, with almost everyone citing the need to look forward and ensure the game’s revival.

“The impact of the loss was not for three years. We lost multiple crops of youth players as well as senior national team players who may be past their prime now. The responsibility is far greater than before to restart things but we are working overdrive to achieve that,” said Shahid Khokhar, who is the Head of League Development and Media at the newly reinstated PFF.

The players are the ones who have suffered the most and it was no surprise that they were ecstatic at the chance of representing the Pak Shaheens once again.

“It is great news, finally. We have waited so long for football to resume so that we can play for Pakistan once again. But we have a long way to go and everybody from the players, coaches and the Federation need to work together to put Pakistan back on track,” added Mohammad Ahmad, who played regularly for the national team in last decade and captained them on occasion as well.

Pakistan star Kaleemullah also voiced his delight at hearing the news and stressed the need for holding international matches for all the age groups as well as the female team so that the players can recover from the massive gap in terms of exposure. Luckily, 2018 itself boasts a number of different events including the SAFF Championship in Bangladesh and the Asian Games, which could help kick-start things for Pakistan internationally.

And according to Khokhar, while Pakistan will be participating in these events, the Federation will also be announcing a series of domestic events to help revive football once again.