KARACHI: The front-runner in Friday’s FIFA’s presidential election, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa gave the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) a coach on a gratis basis a month before a crucial election, Dawn and England’s Daily Mail can exclusively reveal.
That coach was Sheikh Salman’s Bahraini compatriot Mohammad Shamlan Mubarak Basheer Al Shamlan.
The hiring of Shamlan, though, was uncharacteristically abrupt. It came less than 24 hours after the PFF had sacked Serb Zavisa Milosavljevic after Pakistan lost a friendly to neighbours Afghanistan 3-0 on August 21, 2013.
It seemed a knee-jerk reaction at that time — only that his appointment as Pakistan coach was confirmed days before and yet denied by the PFF itself.
But Shamlan’s appointment was seemingly part of a bigger plan, according to documentation seen by Dawn in this joint investigation with Daily Mail.
“Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa Ex President of Bahrain, has been elected new President of AFC (sic),” PFF’s now embattled president Faisal Saleh Hayat said at the 2013 PFF Congress, according to the minutes of the meeting.
“Being a friend of mine he has, on my personal request, provided the services of their top national coach (Mr. Shamlan) to PFF as Head Coach of Pakistan national team for period of two years on gratis basis (sic).
“By availing free services of Bahrainian coach for two years, PFF shall be saving an amounting of almost Rupees 3 crore [$300,000] which can be used for various other football development activities (sic).”
The minutes of the 2013 PFF Congress, held on Sept 21 that year, were approved at next year’s meeting in Islamabad on Nov 19 — at which Sheikh Salman himself was present.
On the day Shamlan was unveiled as Pakistan coach — Aug 22, 2013, PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi said: “Since Bahrain is a friendly country and PFF has good relations with Bahrain’s federation, we have been given their coach free of cost.”
Sheikh Salman was the president of the Bahrain Football Association (BFA) from 2002-2013, leaving shortly after being elected the AFC chief with a landslide victory at its Extraordinary Congress on May 2.
The 50-year-old Sheikh Salman is a senior member of Bahrain’s royal family and subsequent documents show Shamlan coming to Pakistan with the blessing of the Gulf state’s government.
His contract letter, a copy of which it available with Dawn and Daily Mail, is on the letterhead of not the BFA but the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Shamlan came on a salary of US$10,000 per month — $20,000 more per annum than Milosavljevic and on an average, almost half of the $250,000 PFF received from FIFA from its Financial Assistance Programme.
“Government of Bahrain and Football Association of Bahrain has detailed/appointed Mr Mohammed Shamlan Mubarak Basheer Al Shamlan as Pakistan National Football Team Coach for a duration of two years on gratis basis (sic),” Lodhi wrote to Pakistan’s ambassador in Bahrain in order to obtain a multiple visa for Shamlan on October 19, 2013.
In effect, it wasn’t even the BFA rather the Bahrain government that was paying for Shamlan’s salary — something only possible because of Sheikh Salman’s involvement.
The government of Bahrain had confirmed Shamlan as Pakistan coach even before the PFF had.
And Lodhi seemed unaware about the appointment.
“We had talked to Bahrain for a coach and it is not yet confirmed what has been done,” Lodhi was quoted as saying on August 16. “If the news is right then it would be very good for us as we needed a coach.”
Shamlan, though, had been preparing for the Pakistan job since March 2013.
In the CV, which he sent to the PFF and checked on 24th March 2013, he mentions ‘Pakistan National first Team Coach’ as his proposed coaching position.
From what the documents show, it seems the deal to give Shamlan to the PFF was made about month before Sheikh Salman became AFC president.
On Friday, Asia’s football leader will try to become the world’s football leader.
And he will be counting on a vote and lobbying by his friend Hayat who has considerable influence in the AFC.
Locally, Hayat has been out of the scene lately after the Lahore High Court (LHC) appointed an administrator to run the PFF after the country’s football governing body split into two factions heading into last year’s presidential elections.
Hayat, meanwhile, has counted on the support of Sheikh Salman and the AFC, which means he’s still in FIFA’s corridors.
The loyalty for Sheikh Salman also stems from his generosity as AFC boss.
Despite Shamlan being on an all-paid basis, the PFF pocketed another $1750 per month from the AFC Financial Assistance Programme (AFAP) when they appointed the Bahraini as their technical director.
The PFF has been accused recently of embezzling AFAP funds by local coaches.
“The services of Mohammad Shamlan Mubarak Basheer Al Shamlan were offered to PFF on gratis basis prior to the AFC presidential election scheduled to be held in May 2013,” the spokesperson of the LHC-appointed Administrator-run PFF said.
FIFA’s code of ethics, in place since 2012, particularly Article 20, prohibits any gifts that might create a conflict of interests.
Sheikh Salman’s spokesman, meanwhile, said: “This is nothing new. The arrangement between the Bahrain Football Association and the Pakistan Football Federation was publicised at the time.
“The two organisations have had a close relationship for many years. Mohammed Al Shaman had worked in Pakistan previously as the deputy coach to the national team in 2005, and the team had considerable success during his time there.
“When Pakistan’s footballers were struggling with a series of disappointing results three years ago, the Bahrain Football Association was delighted to be able to send Mohammed Al Shaman back to Pakistan to help the team improve. The spirit of co-operation and friendship between the two football governing bodies has lasted for many years, will continue for many more.”
This report included input as part of a joint investigation with Nick Harris, the chief sports news correspondent for the Mail on Sunday, reporting from Zurich.