KARACHI: It had to be emotional — after all it was their hard-earned money that was in question.

In a hard-hitting news conference here on Tuesday, Nasir Ismail hit out at the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for taking away the salary he received from the AFC Financial Assistance Prog­ramme (AFAP), appealing to FIFA’s Ethics Committee for justice.

Fellow former Pakistan assistant coach Gohar Zaman backed Nasir’s view, adding that he was sidelined by the PFF for refusing to return the salary he received from Asia’s football governing body.

AFAP, previously titled Aid27, is AFC’s programme to help its financially weak member associations, helping them develop coaches.

While Aid27 regulations stipulated member associations to provide quarterly reports and contracts of each coach with salaries paid directly to national team and youth coaches.

The AFAP regulations, however, had member associations receiving the total grant which was to be distributed amongst the coaches.

In June, when allegations of financial corruption were being made on the PFF, Dawn asked AFC about the details of the AFAP Programme in Pakistan.

“It isn’t AFC’s policy to give out details of payments to individual Member Associations so unfortunately we can’t help you there,” the AFC spokesperson said then.

The most damning allegations on the PFF, though, came on Tuesday.

Nasir came with a stack of documents, distributed amongst the media after the news conference, in which he claimed the PFF had defrauded him.

Amongst those documents was one signed by him, saying he had “voluntarily authorised the PFF” to retain his AFAP salary “for the development of football based upon transparent financial policy”.

“These are forged signatures,” Nasir said. “I never gave my salary to the PFF... I didn’t even know I was being paid by them. They kept taking funds from the AFAP in my name before I got to know about it two years ago.”

He said that in 2013, the PFF deposited an amount of around Rs16,00,000 into his account, having already asked him for a signed blank cheque.

“The PFF told me they had run into some problems with the audit and that they needed me to return the money which was going to be paid later to me,” Nasir added.

“They withdrew the amount from my account through the cheque they had taken from me and it’s been two years since then but I haven’t heard if I’m going to get my money back.”

CRISIS AND CONTROVERSY

The PFF has been mired in crisis and controversy for the last seven months with the federation splitting into two factions ahead of its June 30 presidential elections.

It led to the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervening and ordering a stay on the elections but the PFF group of Faisal Saleh Hayat went on with the polls in which Hayat got elected for a fourth term as president.

The ensuing dispute saw the LHC appoint an administrator to handle PFF affairs while world’s football governing body FIFA has handed the mandate to Hayat for the next two years, ordering him to hold fresh elections.

Asked why Nasir had decided to come out against the PFF with Hayat facing tremendous pressure to step down amid a contempt case for holding the polls, he said: “I’m not political at all. Football is my bread and butter. For the last several months, I was collecting documentation which I could show to the media.

“I’ve written to the AFC and received a reply that they’re looking into the matter,” he added, showing an email from AFC’s legal department.

While Nasir is awaiting his hard-earned money, Gohar said he was being punished for refusing to return his salary to the PFF.

The former Pakistan international striker said lambasted the PFF and Hayat for “widespread financial corruption in the last 12 years”.

“I was the assistant coach with the national team when [Serbian head coach] Zavisa Milosavljevic was in-charge,” Gohar told reporters. “Two years ago, I got a call from PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi telling me that they were transferring money into my account which I had to return.

“When I found out that it was my AFAP salary, I refused. Why should I give my hard-earned money back to the federation which didn’t support me when I was injured, the injury that curtailed my playing career?” he questioned.

“Upon my refusal to return the money, amounting to some Rs10,00,000, Lodhi said that I’m off the team. Since that day, I haven’t heard from the PFF or him.”

Both Nasir and Gohar urged the respective authorities to probe corruption committed by the PFF over the last 12 years.

“I appeal to the local law enforcement authorities, the AFC president and the FIFA Ethics Committee to look into the matter very seriously,” Nasir appealed. “This is about saving the sport in Pakistan.”

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2015