by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: Ashfaq Hussain Shah’s words were a refreshing change. For long the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has spoken about financial restraints, its utter dependancy on funds from global football body FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for football development in the country.
In his first news conference since taking over the PFF reins, the country’s newly-elected football chief vowed that it won’t be the case anymore. He needs to make the PFF financially secure anyway. His PFF isn’t going to get and FIFA or AFC funding for the time being.
Elected last month following polls ordered by the Supreme Court at the end of a long-running legal dispute that began in 2015, the Ashfaq-led body, for now, isn’t recognised by FIFA.
The world’s football governing body, ahead of the SC-ordered election, made it clear that the polls were a contravention of its statutes which prohibit “third-party interference” in the running of its member associations. FIFA still maintains Faisal Saleh Hayat is the PFF chief, having given him until March 2020 to hold fresh elections.
Ordered to hand over control of the PFF headquarters and its accounts to the newly-elected body by the SC, Hayat’s group did so but while the headquarters were in what Ashfaq termed as “dreadful conditions”, the accounts were empty.
Prior to the election, there had been rumours about Hayat — fearing he would lose the election — had told FIFA and AFC he would return the funding the PFF had received from them.
“We can confirm that we have been contacted by PFF concerning the balance of their Forward funds,” a FIFA spokesperson had told Dawn last month when asked about the issue. The spokesperson did not confirm whether the funding had been returned.
Ashfaq dubbed Hayat’s actions regarding the funds as “criminality” and “treason”.
“The PFF had been specifically told it had to give the Supreme Court an account of everything they do with the funds they have [when the elections were ordered in March last year],” Ashfaq told reporters on Saturday. “They needed to abide by the laws and whatever had been laid out. Before we were set to take over, the PFF had funds totalling around $530,000 and we don’t know whether they have been returned to FIFA or they are still with them. They’re not in the accounts, that’s for sure.”
The PFF president, however, said he wouldn’t let finances get in his way of developing football. “I don’t mind asking the government for funding,” he said, before adding that he was going to make sure that the PFF goes back into the ambit of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) — Pakistan’s sports regulatory authority. During the final few years of his tenure, Hayat had refused to accept PSB funding, a move that saw PFF claim immunity from the local sports laws.
“At this stage we need funds to keep tournaments running, to keep domestic football going,” Ashfaq said. “We need to ensure that football doesn’t come to a standstill. Whether I’ve to beg, whether I’ve to borrow, I won’t let the game suffer. When hockey can get so much funding from the government, why can’t we? We have to make football viable. We need to rope in sponsors. FIFA funding can only do so much. We need more to develop the game.”
However, he said he would he would make his best efforts to contact FIFA and AFC and restore ties with them. After being elected as PFF chief, Ashfaq had written to the AFC only to be told that the Asian body doesn’t recognise the election and would decide “in consultation with FIFA the further course of action”. “We’re going to make further efforts,” he said. “We want them to send a delegation or a fact-finding committee to hear us out and decide how to take football forward.”
With Pakistan potentially facing FIFA suspension for the second time in two years after it was earlier banned from October 2017 to March 2018, Ashfaq said the key was ensuring football doesn’t stop. “I’ve been elected by the Supreme Court, the highest decision-making body in the country,” he said. “There has to be a solution to the ban and there will be. If we were based, we will ensure that football doesn’t stop, that the domestic events continue no matter what. We will ensure that we raise the standard of the game domestically.”
To ensure that, Ashfaq isn’t going to hold back.
Ashfaq vows to take Pak football to new heights
KARACHI: The newly-elected president of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah on Saturday pledged that he will try his level best to live up to the expectations.
“Pakistan has immense talent in football and I pledge to put in my hundred percent to live up to the expectations which the people have attached with me as the PFF chief. If I fail to deliver I will quit,” Ashfaq told a crowded news conference.
“If I’m not able to do justice with my job then it’s not in my nature to stick to anything,” he was quick to add.
Ashfaq also warned that no malpractice will be tolerated. “There will be no malpractice. Neither I do it, nor I let anyone else do it,” Ashfaq said.
He was also flanked by the PFF acting secretary Sharafat Bukhari. He said that they would see a change this time.
“This time, people and football-lovers have joined hands who are the real protectors of the game and a change will be seen soon,” Ashfaq said.
He said that they found football house in a real bad shape.
“I don’t like mudslinging but it’s necessary to mention that football house was neither the property of the outgoing group, nor ours. It’s the property of the nation. The way we found the house in Lahore is a sad story. AFC had sanctioned 300,000 dollars for its rehabilitation. On December 5, 2018 the contractor was told on one-day notice to stop working and leave. And after that people were hired on daily wages to uproot the tiles so that we could not be able to utilise the headquarters. We have left it in the same way as we had found it so that anybody could see what has happened to the headquarters. It’s a criminal act,” Ashfaq alleged.
He reiterated that there was nothing above the law of the land.
“PFF elections were held under the Supreme Court’s instructions. There is nothing bigger than the law of the land. First elections of Punjab Football Association (PFA) were held which the outgoing party accepted. But when the PFF elections, for which the RO was also changed on the request of the outgoing group, were announced they refused to accept that,” Ashfaq said.
He said they were given possession only through a single paper.
“They did not hand us any record,” Ashfaq clarified.
He also criticised the FIFA-recognised PFF’s step of sending back a huge amount to FIFA and AFC. “There were clear instructions from the Supreme Court that no money would be spent without the permission of the apex court,” Ashfaq said.
He said that they had filed an appeal against this act of the other party. He pledged that they will take football to new heights.
“We will have to promote the game. It’s my mission. I will travel around the country. We will consult the experts and will sit together to find out ways how to develop the sport. With a population of 220 million, Pakistan has the potential to grow in football. I saw craze and love in the eyes of people in Lahore who were gathered to take a glimpse of Kaka and Figo despite the fact that the duo has now retired,” the PFF chief said.
He said they will request FIFA to send a fact-finding mission to see the ground realities before taking any decision.
FIFA had already warned Pakistan of a possible suspension if the court-ordered elections of the PFF were held.
The AFC has already rejected Ashfaq’s request of sending a fact-finding delegation to assess the situation.
“We will also try to meet FIFA and the AFC,” the president said.
However, he was quick to add that they will focus on domestic football before the settlement of the issue. “Irrespective of the financial issues, we will carry on all the domestic events at any cost and would not let the game die,” Ashfaq said.
He said that effort will be made to restore PFF’s affiliation with the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).
He also hoped that state would fund PFF. “I hope the state will fund us. If hockey can get Rs200 million then why can’t football?,” he said.
He also lambasted the FIFA-recognised PFF’s move to spend too heavily within eight months. “They have spent Rs230 million in just eight months. Is it not sheer injustice?,” he questioned.
“Immediately after taking charge, the first issue we faced was that of the boycott of referees supervising the Premier League. It was an effort from others to sabotage the country’s top league. We immediately called referees from Peshawar and Malakand in order to fill the gap,” Ashfaq said.