KARACHI: Faisal Saleh Hayat says Hafiz Salman Butt was banned by FIFA but football’s world governing body says it’s unaware.
In a press conference in Lahore on Monday, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president Hayat told reporters he was “disclosing for the first time” that former PFF secretary Hafiz Salman was banned for life by FIFA “for corruption after it found financial irregularities in the PFF accounts”.
Hayat’s presser was a hastily-arranged one. It came two days after Hafiz Salman barged into the PFF House to force the election commissioner into accepting the nomination papers of Ali Haider Noor Niazi for Friday’s Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections.
Noor, a government-backed candidate, saw his nomination rejected before an appellate committee further reinforced that decision.
Hafiz Salman was a former Hayat ally who backed him during the 2003 PFF elections which saw the latter become president. So why is he against Hayat now?
“Hafiz Salman is against me because I didn’t help him in overturning the life ban imposed by FIFA on him some 14 years ago,” was Hayat’s view.
But when Dawn approached FIFA for details into that “life ban”, its spokesperson said on Thursday: “FIFA is not aware of that information and therefore has no comment.”
Moreover, there was nothing related to Hafiz Salman or his ‘ban’ on the search engine of FIFA’s website.
Despite several attempts, Hayat couldn’t be contacted but a PFF official was adamant that FIFA had actually banned Hafiz Salman.
“There could be some confusion because he was banned a long time ago,” the official told Dawn on Thursday. “In a couple of days, we’ll get the required documents from the FIFA disciplinary committee and that will prove he was banned.”
More astounding is the fact that the PFF didn’t have the documents at the first time of asking.
“They [PFF] have been lying all these years that I’ve been banned,” Hafiz Salman told Dawn on Thursday. “They’ve used it as a tool to sideline me from the game which I love dearly.”
He added that he was banned only by the PFF but not by FIFA.
“This goes back to 1995, a year after Mian Azhar beat Hayat in the PFF presidential elections by one vote,” Hafiz Salman said. “I was general secretary then and after differences between me and Mian Azhar, he created a rival body, held mid-term elections and said told FIFA I was behind it.
“Joao Havelange was president then and Sepp Blatter [now FIFA president] was the general secretary and Mian Azhar forced them to declare me persona-non-grata and hand a 10-year ban to me.
“But I appealed to FIFA who told me that I wasn’t suspended and it declared the ban null and void.”
Hafiz Salman, who is widely-regarded as the best secretary PFF has ever had due to his intense interest in football and for his initiated projects during his time in the office, added that he only wanted to improve Pakistan’s standing in the game.
“Over all the years, my mission has been to improve football in the country so we can achieve international glory,” he said. “It hurts to see Pakistan football in the mess it is but I believe change will come.”
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2015