FIFA suspends Pakistan from international soccer

GENEVA - FIFA suspended Pakistan from international soccer on Wednesday because of government interference after disputed national federation elections.

The Pakistan soccer federation's "offices and its accounts remain in control of a court-appointed administrator," FIFA said.

The ban cuts off funding from Zurich, and bars national and club teams and officials from international games and meetings.

Rules imposed by FIFA and its members prohibit outside influence on their independence. The rules can have the effect of protecting unpopular soccer officials from government intervention.

"It's a sad day for Pakistan soccer, but I think government is not realizing the gravity of the problem," Pakistan soccer federation president Faisal Saleh Hayat told The Associated Press.

"There is no shortcut to resolve this problem," he said. "FIFA recognizes Faisal Saleh Hayat as head of PFF and if the government doesn't stop intervening I think it will be a long suspension."

Hayat's re-election two years ago was challenged in court and has led to the FIFA suspension.

The suspension should also bar Hayat from duty at the Asian Football Confederation. He is an AFC executive committee member and chairs its legal committee.

"It's a big loss for us today as none of our players, coaches or referees now could travel abroad until we are suspended," Hayat said.

However, the FIFA suspension does not affect the transfer of players.

Hayat said a months-long suspension could prevent the World Cup trophy from being brought to Pakistan in February as part of a global tour before the tournament kicks off in June.

Pakistan has never played at a World Cup and was eliminated at the first stage of Asian qualifying.

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AP Sports Writer Rizwan Ali in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved. 2017

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