By Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Wednesday confirmed it had transferred $650,000 to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for a flood relief project in the Jhang district, the status of which it is checking.
The flood relief project, sanctioned in October 2010, involved the construction of a stadium and a training centre in Jhang which was hit by floods in late July that year.
The said amount, of which $400,000 was donated by then-FIFA vice-president Dr Chung Mong-Joon and the rest by the AFC, was transferred to the PFF by November 2011 but almost four years on, the project is yet to begin.
On Monday, Dawn published a special report on the project in which the awarding time of the project was also questioned with South Korean Dr Chung, the billionaire scion of Hyundai, then running for re-election to his FIFA post.
“We can confirm that these funds were transferred from the AFC to the Pakistan Football Federation at the time,” an AFC spokesperson told Dawn on Wednesday. “We are currently checking with the PFF as to the status of the project.”
The funds were transferred by AFC general secretary Alex Soosay, who is currently suspended for an alleged ‘cover-up’ in which he asked for evidence to be removed during the 2012 PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) internal audit of Asia’s football governing body.
When the AFC was further asked why it had not carried the inspection of the site where the project was to be built before transferring the funds and whether there could be possible action against the PFF for failing to start the project, the spokesperson added: “We are currently checking the status so cannot say more for the time being.”
The PFF, meanwhile, maintains “that the funds are safe with it”.
“We’ve got the money safely with us,” a PFF official told Dawn on Tuesday, asking not to be named. “The fact that the project never started was because we were not able to get the land from the government.”
When asked that why it was so difficult to get the land in Jhang — the ancestral home of PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat, the official replied: “It’s due to politics and the government won’t give him land since he’s in the opposition.”
In the special report, Dawn mentioned a series of e-mails between the PFF and the AFC in which the former seemed to be very eager to get the money in their hands despite not getting the land allotted for it.
Amongst those e-mails also was a design plan for the project which bears a striking resemblance to the plan forwarded to FIFA for a Goal project in Karachi.
Another question being raised is why the AFC did not follow up on the project over the last four years since the funds were transferred.
“We had to get the land on a 30-year lease from the government,” the official added. “We didn’t get that but we have the money. If the AFC wants us to use the money somewhere else, then we’d be happy to do that. If they want to take it back, no problem.”