Lifting of suspension by FIFA : Will Pakistan be able to stop criminal acts in football
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Lifting of suspension by FIFA : Will Pakistan be able to stop criminal acts in football.

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Lifting of suspension by FIFA : Will Pakistan be able to stop criminal acts in football.
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LAHORE: FIFA, the governing body of world football, on Thursday last lifted its suspension on the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), imposed for over “illegal and hostile takeover” occupation of the PFF Headquarters and “undue third-party interference” in April 2021. The suspension meant Pakistan did not receive any funds from FIFA and it was barred from official competitions while development projects in the country were also be put on hold. “The decision to lift suspension was taken after FIFA received confirmation that the Normalisation Committee of the PFF has regained full control of the PFF’s premises and was in a position to manage its finances,” FIFA said in a statement. At the same time it warned that Pakistan could be suspended again as a result of “any undue interference in its affairs or action that could hinder the fulfilment of the mandate of the Normalisation Committee.” June 30, 2021 was the deadline for the Normalisation Committee to compete its “tasks, which include fresh elections” but FIFA said that because that was “now no longer realistic” its mandate was extended until “June 30, 2023 at the latest.” While other modalities will take time to complete, this immediate relief for Pakistan football will mean that the national team can now take part in Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA competitions. Pakistan’s national teams have been bereft of international action due to the crisis in the PFF. Pakistan’s men’s team last played in 2019, women’s team hasn’t played for long too. It is difficult to predict about fitness and skills of the players. The PFF Normalisation Committee will have to start rebuilding process for both men and women teams.

FIFA’s decision of lifting ban from Pakistan has been welcomed and praised by all and sundry in the country. But the big question which still remains to be answered: will the Pakistan government be able to stop interference in the PFF affairs and prevent those sports officials who are giving a bad name to the country through their illegal and criminal acts? It is pertinent to mention that on 27th March 2021 (Saturday), PFF Headquarters was attacked and taken over by an illegal group led by Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah, a former President of the PFF. FIFA-appointed PFF Normalisation Committee Chairman Haroon Malik was forced to flee the premises as the PFF staff was physically harassed and held hostage for quite some time before the Ashfaq-led group gained control of the PFF Headquarters. No doubt it was a criminal act, bringing shame to Pakistan football and the country. FIFA had termed the takeover illegal and issued an ultimatum that the Normalisation Committee should be handed over the PFF control by March 31, 2021 otherwise Pakistan could be suspended from its membership. The Ashfaq group had ignored the deadline and had announced to continue working from the PFF Headquarters.

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These are times when one fails to figure out what is keeping Pakistan football alive. In other countries, people running the sports affairs contribute by taking professional decisions and by executing them with competence rather than on the basis of personal preference and bias. But, frankly, we are not such a nation. In Pakistan most things defy logic. Pakistan football is in a mess due to unlawful interference in the affairs of the national federation. It is high time the Pakistan government, which is completely oblivious to the state of sports in the country, take strong and concrete steps the stop the rot in Pakistan football, which is exhibiting total lack of discipline and professionalism and damaging repute of the country around the globe.

Ashfaq was named PFF President after 2018 elections were held on the instructions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. But FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation had refused to recognise him as the elected President, ruling the Supreme Court’s move as “third-party interference” in running of the national football body. During that time, Pakistan was also suspended for a six-month period from October 2017 to March 2018 for a court appointed Administrator taking over the PFF Headquarters from then PFF President Faisal Saleh Hayat. In 2019, FIFA installed the Normalisation Committee — initially headed by Humza Khan — to strengthen the football structure in Pakistan, aiming to achieve a functioning administration by conducting transparent elections. After Humza’s resignation in December 2020, FIFA named Haroon as Chairman of the Normalisation Committee. In 2021, tensions had been brewing between the group led by Ashfaq and the Normalisation Committee over delay in holding elections. In 2015, Pakistan was also banned by FIFA due to third-party interference.

It is very unfortunate that Pakistan sports are always in the news for all the wrong reasons. Attacking and storming national sports federations’ headquarters, and taking illegal charge, is not new in Pakistan’s sports history. The first such unprecedented incident took place in Lahore on 3rd September 2013 when a goon squad of nearly two dozen people, some of them carrying firearms, stormed on the Pakistan Olympic Association’s (POA) Headquarters in Lahore and stiff-armed its way into the offices and illegally occupied the POA record and Headquarters. The Pakistan government pressure was visible as the police station concerned refused to register a criminal case against the culprits. The Pakistan Olympic Movement remained under a siege for almost three years — 2012 to 2015 — as a handful of disgruntled and mischievous sports elements with the help of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Ministry and some Federal government officials left no stone unturned to destroy the very fabric of the sports in the country and invite the wrath of the International Olympic Committee by openly and shamelessly violating the Olympic Charter.

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Over the years, Pakistan sports have gone to the dogs. And football is no exception. Lack of availability of proper facilities and infrastructure, inadequate role of sports federations and lack of support from the government has badly affected Pakistan’s graph in sports. Perhaps the biggest reason for the extraordinary decline in sports in Pakistan is a lack of discipline, infighting among officials, funding and vision. Governments all over the world keep sports, education and discipline as their top priority, build infrastructure, hold talent development programmes for players and promote medical sciences in sports to compete the world of sports. But in Pakistan it is totally opposite because sports are not our priority.

It is also very unfortunate that football, like other Pakistan sports, over the years, has become politicised and nepotistic. In the national sphere and the sporting arena the root of our dilemma is the notorious system of patronage and imposed cronies, to the exclusion of merit and professionalism. Under the powerful patron’s benevolent gaze, the pick and choose appointees can survive scandals and failures that would crush an ordinary mortal. These are times when one fails to figure out what is keeping Pakistan football alive. In other countries, people running the sports affairs contribute by taking professional decisions and by executing them with competence rather than on the basis of personal preference and bias. But, frankly, we are not such a nation. In Pakistan most things defy logic. Pakistan football is in a mess due to unlawful interference in the affairs of the national federation. It is high time the Pakistan government, which is completely oblivious to the state of sports in the country, take strong and concrete steps the stop the rot in Pakistan football, which is exhibiting total lack of discipline and professionalism and damaging repute of the country around the globe.

 

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Former Olympians condole death of Pakistan hockey great Manzoor Junior

Madison Franz

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Former Olympians condole death of Pakistan hockey great Manzoor Junior
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LAHORE: Former hockey Olympians and international players of Kenya and India have condoled death of former Pakistan Olympian Manzoor Hussain Junior who died due to cardiac arrest on August 29 in Lahore. The 63-year-old’s death news came as a shock to the sport’s community.

Manzoor – born in Sialkot in 1958 – bagged 86 goals in 175 outings for Pakistan in his international career that spanned from 1975-84. Expressing their condolence on the death of Manzoor, foreign players paid rich tributes to the departed soul. In their messages they also prayed for eternal peace for the departed soul.

“Late Manzoor Junior toured Kenya and Tanzania with a young Pakistan team in 1974,” said former Kenya hockey captain Surjit Singh Rihal. “I had the privilege of playing against Manzoor a number of times between 1974 and 1982. He was a brilliant forward and had very good stick work.

His movements with the ball were always very threatening for the opponents and his passes to the very speedy Pakistan wingers were constant pressure on the defenders. My sincere condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace.”

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Former Kenya hockey international Brajinder Daved said he first played against Manzoor Junior in 1970 along with Khalid Mahmood and Kaleem Ullah at the City Park Hockey Stadium. “Pakistan had come to Kenya to play six matches against Kenya. Later in June 1980 we played again at City Park Hockey Stadium, Nairobi when Akhtar Rasool, Rashid-ul-Hassan, Syed Safdar Abbas, Riaz Shah, Manzoor Jr and Kaleem Ullah Khan were also part of the team.

Condolences from me and may Manzoor’s soul rest in peace,” added Brajinder Daved. Another Kenya international hockey player Davinder Degan said: “Sad to hear of Manzoor’s passing away. May his soul rest in peace. Kenya international hockey player Jagmel Singh Rooprai said:

“Very sad to hear the news. I had the privilege to play against him a couple of times though he was quite junior to me. RIP

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India’s 1975 World Cup winning captain Ajitpal Singh stated:

“God bless the departed soul to rest in peace. Heartfelt condolences to the family.” Former Indian international Syed Ali said: “We were the youngest members of the Indian and Pakistan teams at the Montreal Olympic Games.

Manzoor Jr was a feared and dashing all time great inside right with superb ball control and goal scoring ability. Allah unko Jannat Naseeb kare.” India’s Mervyn Fernandes, a triple Olympian (1980, 84, 88) and gold medalist 1980, in his message said:

What a brilliant and talented player he was. Manzoor Junior was made of a rare mold. RIP Manzoor Hussain” Former Kenya hockey player Raphael Fernandes also condoled the death of Manzoor Junior.

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Hockey stadium to have big screens for Asia Cup final

Madison Franz

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Hockey stadium to have big screens for Asia Cup final
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LAHORE: The Sports Board Punjab will install the biggest TV screens at the National Hockey Stadium for the cricket fans to see live coverage of the final of the T20 Asia Cup-2022 to be played between Pakistan and Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Last month, the stadium made the headlines due to a political party’s public meeting for which AstroTurf was removed.

Former Olympians condole death of Pakistan hockey great Manzoor Junior

LAHORE: Former hockey Olympians and international players of Kenya and India have condoled death of former Pakistan Olympian Manzoor Hussain Junior who died due to cardiac arrest on August 29 in Lahore. The 63-year-old’s death news came as a shock to the sport’s community. Manzoor – born in Sialkot in 1958 – bagged 86 goals in 175 outings for Pakistan in his international career that spanned from 1975-84. Expressing their condolence on the death of Manzoor, foreign players paid rich tributes to the departed soul. In their messages they also prayed for eternal peace for the departed soul.

“Late Manzoor Junior toured Kenya and Tanzania with a young Pakistan team in 1974,” said former Kenya hockey captain Surjit Singh Rihal. “I had the privilege of playing against Manzoor a number of times between 1974 and 1982. He was a brilliant forward and had very good stick work. His movements with the ball were always very threatening for the opponents and his passes to the very speedy Pakistan wingers were constant pressure on the defenders. My sincere condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace.”

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Former Kenya hockey international Brajinder Daved said he first played against Manzoor Junior in 1970 along with Khalid Mahmood and Kaleem Ullah at the City Park Hockey Stadium. “Pakistan had come to Kenya to play six matches against Kenya. Later in June 1980 we played again at City Park Hockey Stadium, Nairobi when Akhtar Rasool, Rashid-ul-Hassan, Syed Safdar Abbas, Riaz Shah, Manzoor Jr and Kaleem Ullah Khan were also part of the team. Condolences from me and may Manzoor’s soul rest in peace,” added Brajinder Daved. Another Kenya international hockey player Davinder Degan said: “Sad to hear of Manzoor’s passing away. May his soul rest in peace. Kenya international hockey player Jagmel Singh Rooprai said: “Very sad to hear the news. I had the privilege to play against him a couple of times though he was quite junior to me. RIP.”

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India’s 1975 World Cup winning captain Ajitpal Singh stated: “God bless the departed soul to rest in peace. Heartfelt condolences to the family.” Former Indian international Syed Ali said: “We were the youngest members of the Indian and Pakistan teams at the Montreal Olympic Games.

Manzoor Jr was a feared and dashing all time great inside right with superb ball control and goal scoring ability. Allah unko Jannat Naseeb kare.” India’s Mervyn Fernandes, a triple Olympian (1980, 84, 88) and gold medalist 1980, in his message said: “What a brilliant and talented player he was. Manzoor Junior was made of a rare mold. RIP Manzoor Hussain” Former Kenya hockey player Raphael Fernandes also condoled the death of Manzoor Junior.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka had qualified for the final after they defeated India and Afghanistan in the Super Four Stage.

 

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Pakistan look to end decade-long Asia Cup drought but Sri Lanka have psychological edge

Madison Franz

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Pakistan look to end decade-long Asia Cup drought but Sri Lanka have psychological edge
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Will Pakistan win their third Asia Cup? Or will Sri Lanka be crowned for the sixth time?

It is a tournament Pakistan love but a tournament that hasn’t always loved them back. Pakistan’s lack of success over this competition’s four-decade history has been baffling, given, if history is a guide, there are only three possible destinations for this trophy. For the first half of the tournament’s existence, India and Sri Lanka played musical chairs, with Pakistan kept out in the cold, making only one of the first six finals.
They won the Sharjah Cup, the Nehru Cup and even the World Cup during this time, but the Asia Cup remained elusive. It wasn’t until 2000 that a Moin Khan-led side finally touched the one piece of silverware that Pakistan had been denied. But it took them another 12 years for their next title. It has been a further decade since, and while India and Sri Lanka have split a dozen of these between them, Pakistan cherish the memories of those two.
The tournament has evolved, this particular edition is in the T20 format, and fans been gifted a vintage Pakistan side: wild, excitable, unpredictable, and against all odds, still here. The manner of India’s routing of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka’s subsequent dismantling of Pakistan means those two Naseem Shah sixes really were the difference between qualification and elimination. Now, Babar Azam has the chance to achieve what only Moin and Misbah-ul-Haq have accomplished for Pakistan – the official continental supremacy.
Pakistan have not necessarily looked destined for glory this fortnight, beginning with a final-over defeat to arch-rivals India. They inflicted a loss on that same opponent a week later to invigorate a flagging campaign, but stumbles against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka suggest a lot of work still needs to be done – not just with bat in hand, but, for this young side, also when it comes to keeping emotions in control; there was evidence in that game against Afghanistan that nerves, and perhaps tempers, threatened to get the better of them at crucial moments.
Tempers are less likely to flare in the final, though. Each Asia Cup side has had a complicated relationship with the others, but Pakistan vs Sri Lanka is perhaps the friendliest fixture of all. Throughout most of their history, these two nations have enjoyed cordial relations, and been there for each other in their toughest times. That warmth has been evident on the field as well, and there is no reason that should change.
A Sri Lankan redemption arc, though, is perhaps a neater, easier graph to chart, though nonetheless dramatic for it. Not many would have expected Sri Lanka to be here after they were blown away by eight wickets and almost ten overs to spare in the opening game by Afghanistan. Against Bangladesh, too, they looked done for in a steep chase until Kusal Mendis, Dasun Shanaka, and Bangladesh’s own mistakes saw them sneak through to the Super 4s.
But since then, their campaign has turned around. The batters, right through to the lower order, played modern, aggressive, entertaining cricket that has lit up this tournament, gaining them fans outside that little paradise of an island itself. Afghanistan were swiftly avenged, before a thrilling win against India effectively saw them through to the final. The way their batters held their nerve at the death against India made that win especially impressive as they trumped an opposition that had beaten them in 14 of the last 17 T20Is.
The win against Pakistan in the last game of the Super 4 round perhaps means they go into the final as favourites, but not mentioning the value of the toss would be irresponsible. Only three times has a team defended successfully in the tournament – Hong Kong’s two opponents and India against Afghanistan – and while there have been plenty of close games to suggest it needn’t have been that way, the value of winning the toss cannot be overstated.

Form guide

Pakistan LWWWL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WWWWL

In the spotlight

Whether you’re Team Total Attack or Team Platform Building, Pakistan’s T20 fortunes are tethered firmly to the kind of day Mohammad Rizwan is having. He might take his time and hold up one end, which gives the rest of the side something of a comfort blanket – that only becomes really apparent in how exposed the side feels when he falls early. Even better for Pakistan, if he could find his timing from relatively early on and get them off to a rapid, if not flying, start. A struggling Rizwan often means a struggling Pakistan, not just because his runs might be missed, but because Rizwan in the right mood lifts the spirit of the entire side. He has become this T20I side’s heartbeat, as well as the bellwether of its performances.
Wanindu Hasaranga doesn’t mind playing against Pakistan. The 3 for 21 he picked up in the dry run for the final wasn’t a one-off. Quite literally, in the sense that he had registered those precise numbers in a T20I in Lahore as well to help Sri Lanka clean sweep Pakistan 3-0. It was really that tour of Pakistan that kickstarted his career, and he hasn’t looked back since. Pakistan remain, statistically, one of his most favoured opponents, against whom he has bagged 11 wickets in four matches. These include a Player-of-the-Series award as well as two Player-of-the-Match performances. Add to that his ability to contribute runs down the order, and it becomes clear why his battle against Pakistan might be key to the destination of the Asia Cup.

Pitch and conditions

It will be hot and dry again, as it has been all fortnight.

Team news

After resting a few players in the last game, Pakistan should revert to the side that won three games in a row prior to Friday’s defeat.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Fakhar Zaman, 4 Iftikhar Ahmed, 5 Khushdil Shah, 6 Shadab Khan, 7 Asif Ali, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Naseem Shah, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Hasnain
Sri Lanka may consider bringing Asitha Fernando back, but after that commanding bowling performance on Friday, an unchanged XI is more likely.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Kusal Mendis (wk), 2 Pathum Nissanka, 3 Dhananjaya de Silva, 4 Danushka Gunathilaka, 5 Dasun Shanaka (capt), 6 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 7 Chamika Karunaratne, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Maheesh Theekshana, 10 Pramod Madushan, 11 Dilshan Madushanka

Stats and trivia

  • Haris Rauf is three strikes shy of 50 T20I wickets.
  • This is the fourth time Sri Lanka and Pakistan are playing an Asia Cup final, with Sri Lanka winning two of the previous three.
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Quotes

“When building a team, it is great for us that different players have stood up when it counts and helped the team win matches. As a captain, this is important for me, and it helps pave the path for future success for the team as well.”
Babar Azam relishes the contributions from multiple players this competition
“As a tournament, looking back, this has been one of the best Asia Cups we have had, and we are looking forward to the final.”
Dasun Shanaka has his eyes firmly on the prize
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