By Umaid Wasim,
KARACHI: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) claimed it had indeed acquired land for the controversial Dr Chung/AFC project in Jhang, a letter received by Dawn on Monday reveals.
The project, awarded in 2010 by the Asian Football Confederation and then FIFA vice-president and now FIFA presidential hopeful Chung Mong-Joon never began, and is one of charity donations from the South Korean billionaire reportedly being investigated by the FIFA Ethics Committee.
Chung donated $400,000 of the $650,000 project with the rest of the amount being financed by the AFC and was aimed at building a football training centre in the Jhang district which was hit by floods that year.
In a special report in June, Dawn revealed through a series of leaked e-mails between the AFC and PFF on how desperate the country’s football governing body was to get hold of the funds and how the timing of the awarding of the project was suspicious.
In wake of that report Asia’s football governing body told the PFF that the matter had been sent to FIFA’s Investigatory Chamber since the funding, which had been transferred to the PFF in late 2011, had “not been used for its original purpose”.
The PFF has been mired in crisis and controversy over the last few months following the formation of a splinter group in the lead-up to its presidency elections on June 30, which were deemed illegal by the Lahore High Court (LHC).
The PFF currently is split into two factions — one led by Faisal Saleh Hayat who has been the country’s football chief since the last 12 years and the other by its senior vice-president Zahir Shah.
Hayat and the secretary of his faction, Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi, have been denying over the last few months since the initial report by Dawn that they never got the land but the letter sent by the latter to then-AFC general secretary Alex Soosay suggests otherwise.
“The unprecedented floods of 2010 had adversely affected and ruined the football infrastructure of Pakistan,” Lodhi wrote in that letter dated October 4, 2011, one of the first few regarding the transfer of funds for the Jhang project.
“Viewing the gravity of the national calamity, Dr Chung provided $0.4million to AFC for the construction/rebuilt of the destroyed infrastructure in the flood affected areas of Pakistan.
“The then-AFC president Mr Mohammad Bin Hammam also evaluated the tragic effects of flood and committed financial assistance of $0.25million for from the AFC to the PFF for the same purpose.”
Then comes the revelation that shows Lodhi and Hayat’s recent claims are untrue.
“PFF has acquired suitable land in district Jhang, the worst flood affected area in Punjab for the construction of a football stadium and training centre,” Lodhi wrote.
The PFF secretary then added that inflation had resulted in increased cost of the materials for building of the project and therefore it needed the funds quickly to start construction of the project.
It concluded saying that in a recent telephonic conversation between Zhang Jilong — the acting AFC president after Bin Hammam was banned for bribery and conflict of interest in 2011 — and Hayat, the former had consented to transferring the funds.
Chung, who is in the running to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA chief in its Feb 26 elective congress, has said that the donation to Pakistan was a part of his $777million Global Football Fund which was set up in 2010.
German newspaper Die Welt reported on Friday that Chung was facing an investigation into his involvement in the plan to set up the development fund which was related to South Korea’s bid for the 2022 World Cup.
Unconfirmed reports in the paper suggested that Chung risks a ban of up to 15 years from all football activity because of his ‘persuasive’ efforts in support of his country’s vain bid to host the 2022 World Cup, which was awarded to Qatar.
Chung has termed reports of investigation into the fund as proof that outgoing president Blatter is trying to interfere in his campaign.
Blatter, who is not running in the elections following the worst crisis in FIFA history, has for long enjoyed the support of the PFF.
The fate of the PFF, though, will be decided during his time as the leader of world football with the matter regarding the country’s football governing body set to be discussed at FIFA’s Associations Committee meeting on September 21.