FIFA official under fire again as efforts to derail NC continue [Dawn]

FIFA official under fire again as efforts to derail NC continue [Dawn]

by Umaid Wasim

KARACHI: With the latest letter, came more criticism. The supporters of Faisal Saleh Hayat have been relentless in their vilification of Alexandre Gros, the senior governance services manager of FIFA’s Member Association Committee who oversaw the appointment of the Normalisation Committee for the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), and it shows no signs of stopping.

Earlier this month, shameful scenes were witnessed during a protest staged by a small group of Hayat supporters, who burnt effigies of Gros, the Normalisation Committee chairman Humza Khan and retired Col Mujahhidullah Tareen, who is one of the committee members. The supporters were following a call from former PFF chief Hayat in which he asked them to go out and protest to appoint a committee which was “controversial, biased, and agenda-driven”.

In the latest step, Munir Ahmed Sadhana and Syed Najib Hasan Shah — two members of the committee who were proposed by Hayat — have written a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, a copy of which is available with Dawn, in which they have criticised Gros and called the Normalisation Committee a “non-starter from the beginning” due to the appointments of Humza and Mujahid.

“Mr Alex Gross, the FIFA official designated to oversee these formalities was sadly found wanting in his responses when his attention was drawn to these so obvious and visibly blatant inconsistencies and violations,” they wrote in the letter regarding the appointments of the aforementioned duo who they called “highly controversial persons in the context of Pakistan football”.

The criticism of Gros was brief — unlike the earlier letter written by Najib and Munir to FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura and AFC secretary Dato Winsor John. That letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn, alleged the FIFA official of “blatantly violating the rules set by FIFA itself”.

“In order to hide his guilt for blatantly violating FIFA directives due to his whimsical, nonsensical and malafide agenda, he [Gros] has misled the FIFA higher-ups keeping them in the dark by presenting handpicked, wrong and self-crafted picture that has no nexus with ground realities of Pakistan football,” they wrote, accusing Gros of a partial attitude towards them.

In that letter, they asked FIFA to formulate a new body “otherwise Pakistan football is fast stepping into a major meltdown, the making of which will lie squarely on the shoulders of Alexandre Gros and his errant associates”.

In the letter to the FIFA president, they accuse Humza, along with Mujahid and Sikander Khattak — the two members nominated by Hayat’s rival group led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, of “embarking upon a personal crusade to support Ashfaq Group by whatever means necessary, notwithstanding the legal, ethical or statutory obligations they are bound to comply with”.

The first decision taken by Humza as Normalisation Committee was the removal of PFF secretary and Hayat’s long-time loyal aide Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi. While Lodhi continues to protest he is neutral, he was seen standing alongside Hayat in a video where the latter is asking his supporters to go out on the roads against the Normalisation Committee.

FIFA’s decision to appoint a Normalisation Committee came in June, following the visit of a fact-finding mission to the country a month earlier and nearly four years after Hayat organised divisive and disputed elections of the PFF.

Hayat lodged a strong protest with Infantino over the appointment of Humza and his opposition of FIFA’s fact-finding missions or its officials is nothing new. Back in 2015, when FIFA had also sent a mission following those controversial elections, Hayat had also written a strong-worded letter to the AFC over the conduct of the officials of that mission. Then, influence from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) averted a possible Normalisation Committee.

This time, despite being an AFC vice-president, his appeals to the Asian body have gone unheard. AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain is one of seven members on the Bureau of the FIFA Council which took the final decision to appoint the Normalisation Committee that has to hold fresh elections of the PFF by June 2020.

“We knew such a thing will happen,” a well-placed source in FIFA told Dawn, regarding the protests by Hayat supporters. “The fact of the matter is that we want football in Pakistan to move forward.

“It is a known fact that the Normalisation Committee was put in place because the situation of football in Pakistan wasn’t perfect,” the source added, informing that FIFA “isn’t pleased by the way Gros is being targeted”.

Hayat and his supporters have repeatedly pointed to Humza’s past as grounds for him not being neutral. They allege that since he was part of Karachi United, he would share the same views as that of the club’s founder Taha Alizai who has been a legal consultant for the Ashfaq group.

“The committee has been put in place and FIFA is standing firmly behind Humza to lead the way the chairman as it is sure that he is very much neutral,” the source added.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019