Hayat blames govt for abrupt SAFF U-16 withdrawal [Dawn]

Hayat blames govt for abrupt SAFF U-16 withdrawal [Dawn]

By Umaid Wasim

KARACHI: With his future as Pakistan’s football chief hanging in the balance, Faisal Saleh Hayat blamed the government for the country’s non-participation in next month’s SAFF U-16 Championship.

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has been mired in controversy for the last few months with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) also starting its probe into financial irregularities during Hayat’s 12 years as president.

During the past months, Hayat has been suspended as president through an Extraordinary Congress held by a splinter group of the PFF — a decision which he refuses to accept.

That splinter group then took over the PFF headquarters — a step Hayat terms as taken by the backing of the government — and followed a highly divisive presidential election on June 30.

Hayat was up against PFF senior vice-president Zahir Ali Shah in the elections with the PFF splinter group, led by interim chief Arshad Khan Lodhi, and Hayat’s PFF both announcing separate venues for the polls.

It led to an intervention by the Lahore High Court (LHC) which ordered a stay on the elections but Hayat went ahead with the elections which saw him re-elected. It ignited further controversy with Hayat being served a contempt notice.

Hayat and two other PFF officials — secretary Col Lodhi and finance committee chairman Asif Ali — were summoned by the FIA on Monday but they did not turn up as they questioned its jurisdiction.

In the ensuing fracas, Hayat’s PFF has claimed his re-election has been accorded by the Executive Committee of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) with Asia’s football governing body having also sent an observer to the elections held in Changla Gali.

An AFC spokesperson told Dawn on Wednesday that it will “look into it” when questioned about the ExCo claim. The AFC had earlier told Dawn that elections have to be held “under accordance of FIFA/AFC statutes and national law”.

During that period, Zahir has written to FIFA, informing the world body that the step to suspend Hayat through an Extraordinary Congress and the takeover of the PFF House was all done constitutionally as he asked it to evaluate the situation.

Hayat, however, directly blamed the government. “The young national footballers who had prepared very well for the event are very disappointed,” he said in a news release announcing that Pakistan will be unable to participate in SAFF U-16 Championship in Bangladesh from August 7-15.

“The government and its backed intruders into football house are not realising the level of damage they have done to the football of Pakistan. They are bringing a very bad name to the country.”

Lodhi, meanwhile, said: “We have no record with us, the occupiers of PFF House have savagely damaged or wasted all football related valuable record of PFF maintained in years. Those occupying the PFF House are responsible for this situation and so is the government and Sports Board Punjab (SBP) for supporting and favouring them illegally, unethically, undemocratically and unconstitutionally.”

Hayat’s PFF also announced the postponement of the inaugural Women’s League and Inter-club Championships but Col Farasat Ali Shah — the acting secretary of the group controlling the PFF House — said that they would try to ensure Pakistan’s participation in SAFF U-16 Championship.

“I’ve been told by some well-placed sources that FIFA is likely to discuss the Pakistan situation during its Extraordinary Executive Committee meeting on July 20,” Farasat told Dawn on Wednesday. “We’ve done everything according to the PFF constitution so we’re not worried.

“If something is decided by then, we’ll do our level best to send a team for the SAFF U-16 Championship.”

FIFA did not immediately respond to Dawn when asked about the situation.