by Mohsin Ali
ISLAMABAD-Former Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Hafiz Salman Butt termed role of sponsors highly important in raising the standard of football in Pakistan.
Talking to The Nation, Hafiz Salman said: “When I was PFF secretary from 1991 to 1994, Pakistan was enjoying the best ever FIFA rankings of 138 and we were number one ranked football team in SAF. Pakistan had won twice gold medal in the South Asian Games during my tenure while in 1989 during Islamabad SAF Games, Pakistan soccer team beat Bangladesh in the final to lift title and in 1991 during Sri Lankan SAF Games, we managed to beat Maldives in final. I was the one who gave high importance of starting football league and it was me, who introduced Lifebouy League in 1991, which was abandoned in 1994 after my departure.”
He said: “We introduced hefty prize money for the teams and players and in 1991, the teams were awarded Rs 50,000 cash bonuses, which was never heard before. It was my main objective to ensure players get maximum facilities and financial stability, as without taking good care of the players, no one could expect better results. It was my tenure, when Pakistan was amongst top 8 Asian teams and played the AFC clubs championship and Wohaib Club was amongst top 8 clubs of Asia.”
“During 1991 to 1994, we ensured the league conducted in a highly professional manner and 104 clubs participated in the league and 92 clubs were amongst them while only 12 departments and that too, who gave jobs to soccer players. The legacy continued till 1994, as we had signed Rs 35m deal with Lifebuoy out of which Rs15m were spent on advertisement by the sponsors and remaining Rs 20m on the players and teams over the three-year period,” he added.
Hafiz Salman said: “We introduced the C League and matches were played in Balochistan, Sindh and other far-flung areas of the provinces, while it was me who never compromised on rules and regulations and never allowed teams to play without shin guards. At that time, nobody could even think about implementing laws, but I never compromised, that was the main reason, Pakistan football was on a high, unlike of these days, when the national team is at its lowest ebb. Pakistan had 14 officials at the Asian level, at par with top Asian teams, which was never witnessed again, as we finished 12th in 12th Asian Club Championship in Bahrain.”
When asked whether he was ready to serve Pakistan football again, he replied: “No, I can’t give time now, but I am ready to help Pakistan football in the best possible manner. I am ready to play a lead role and can give guidelines. I will not accept any office in the federation, but if someone wants me to contribute, I am ready to serve for the national interest.”
He said nobody could expect over the night results. “The person who may take over the helm of affairs of the PFF should first draw a four-year plan to ensure national soccer team must enter in top 16, which will help us earn spot in World Cup qualifying round. We should also focus on winning the SAF Championship and after that the focus must be on playing World Cup in next 8 years or so. It is although a difficult task and required patience, yet it is very much possible. There is also a dire need of including Pakistani technical officials in FIFA technical committee as they were previously serving there. In my opinion, hard work and sincere efforts hold the key to achieve these goals,” Hafiz Salman concluded.