by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: FIFA has done its job. The operational part of FIFA Goal projects in Pakistan is the job of the country’s football federation.
The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), the regulatory body in this case — and with seven non-functional Goal projects, has claimed over the last year that the projects are “supervised by FIFA officials, while the local federation is responsible for the provision of land for the facilities”.
The world’s football governing body, though, has indicated that it has no supervisory role once its “contractual obligations have been fulfilled”.
“The operational part of FIFA’s Goal projects is mainly the responsibility of the relevant member association,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn over the course of last week when asked why its Goal Projects in Pakistan remained nonoperational.
“As far as FIFA is concerned, monitoring has been implemented within the respective regulations. FIFA’s contractual obligations regarding the Goal projects in Pakistan have been fulfilled.”
FIFA asked Dawn to contact the PFF on why the projects remained in doldrums.
But the PFF faction, which is recognised by FIFA, has a strict gag order on its officials in the wake of a local court case.
The PFF has been mired in crisis ever since it split into two factions in the lead-up to its presidential elections in June last year after a full-blown dispute over the controversial Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections in April.
With the two groups — one led by incumbent president Faisal Saleh Hayat and the other by contender and vice-president Zahir Ali Shah — heading into the polls, it saw the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervene and order a stay on the elections.
The Hayat group however went on to hold the elections and that has resulted in a drawn-out battle against the honourable court which appointed retired Justice Asad Munir as PFF Administrator till the issue is resolved.
FIFA, meanwhile, has backed Hayat and has given him two years to conduct fresh elections.
Last Sunday, officials of the Hayat faction celebrated the AFC Grassroots Day at the sprawling, yet decaying, Goal project in Karachi, which was officially completed two years ago.
The Hawksbay training centre has no football pitch despite the architect’s drawing showing a lush green field.
‘TECHNICAL CENTRE ONLY’
With $505,958 spent on the project awarded in 2006, “to provide facilities for the training of the national teams”, it has hardly served its purpose.
An expansive building with few basic amenities stands, surrounded by sand and goalposts where two youth teams played last week to celebrate the grassroots day.
“Please note that Goal Project II comprised the construction of the buildings for the technical centre only,” the FIFA spokesperson informed. “As far as the specific architectural plan and details of the implementation are concerned, please kindly contact the PFF.”
Elaborating on how the technical centre can provide facilities for the training of the national teams, the spokesperson added: “A technical centre can serve different purposes, such as offices for member associations staff, meeting rooms for national teams, venue for technical courses, seminars and media events.”
The AFC Grassroots Day event last week was the first time the media was formally invited to the Karachi Goal Project.
Others that remain incomplete include facilities in Abbottabad, Quetta, Jacobabad, Sukkur and Khanewal. The one in Peshawar lies in ruins.
Lack of training facilities and no proper grassroots programme while adding to the impasse in the PFF matters have also seen Pakistan slide down to 190th in the FIFA rankings.
The PFF, over the years, has claimed it as a “feather in its cap” that Pakistan has been awarded eight Goal Projects.
And while those projects have made hardly any impact, Pakistan— along with other FIFA member associations—will see an increased development aid ($1.25 million per year from $400,000) in FIFA’s new Forward Development Programme.
But there will now be more stringent checks on the projects.
“The FIFA Forward Development Programme announced during the 66th FIFA Congress [earlier this month] aims to improve the way FIFA develops and supports football across its member associations and it’s based on three principles: more investment, more impact and more oversight,” said the FIFA spokesperson.
With FIFA administration to monitor progress of projects, enhanced development regulations and independent financial audits of Forward funds for each association, Pakistan’s football aficionados will hope the new programme makes more of a difference than the Goal Programme.