Umaid Wasim- DAWN
THE controversial Sunday Times report which accused disgraced former AFC President Mohammad Bin Hammam of bribing his member federations into re-electing him as the president of Asia’s football governing body in 2011 — thus paving the way for him to lead a successful bid for Qatar to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has created quite a storm here.
The Sunday Times report also said the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) received $15,000 as well as an additional $400,000 for development projects from Bin Hammam in 2011.
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter felt the need to question British press’ motives and hoped that the controversial findings of the British newspaper would be all but sorted out at Tuesday’s FIFA congress. “What is the rationale behind the British press over the Qatar-gate, I don’t understand,” said Blatter at the AFC Extraordinary Congress on Monday.
“Tomorrow [at the first day of the two-day FIFA Congress], investigating officer Michael Garcia will present his findings and we’ll find out that the bid and voting process for the 2022 World Cup was transparent.”
Giving his first official reaction to the bombshell news report, PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat echoed Blatter’s views in an exclusive interview on Monday on the sidelines of the AFC Extraordinary Congress. “I believe the British media cannot get over the fact that they lost the bid to host the World Cup to an Asian country despite campaigning so hard,” Faisal told Dawn on Monday. “What I believe is these reports in their tabloids and national newspapers is a case of sour grapes,” he added.
Faisal, who is also the head of the AFC Legal Committee, added that the PFF accounts were audited each year. “The PFF finances are audited each year under the supervision of FIFA and the AFC,” he said. “In case of any discrepancy, our grants [by FIFA and the AFC] would’ve been stopped.”
Faisal who had close ties with Bin Hammam also reflected on his friendship with the former AFC chief but denied that the PFF had received favours in exchange for votes. “I had very good relations with Bin Hammam and I wouldn’t deny that,” he said.
“But then again, I’m also very good friends with Blatter and [AFC president] Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa. But what is for sure is that the PFF would never let its principles go down for the sake of petty cash.”
The PFF chief reiterated that the close relations he enjoys with the top officials have only benefitted Pakistan football. “Due to our connections, Pakistan received the highest number of goal projects in the world,” he said.
Pakistan currently has eight goal projects which are set to be inaugurated next year. The projects are designed to help emerging nations improve football at grassroots level.
Faisal added that better relations were crucial since football in the country doesn’t enjoy much support.
“There is no government support for the game in the country while there is no involvement in the corporate sector in football as well,” he said. “Without the support that we enjoy from the AFC and FIFA, we wouldn’t be able to arrange any foreign tours for the national side.”
The PFF chief further said that he would ensure that the Pakistan national team would be given adequate tours ahead of the Asian Games. “We have a two-game tour to India before the team flies out to Bahrain for a few preparatory matches,” he said. “Our close ties with the regional bodies have been crucial in arranging these tours.”
Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2014