KARACHI: On Sunday, officials of the Sindh Football Association (SFA) celebrated the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Grass-roots Football Day — only that the match to mark the occasion wasn’t played on grass.

The desolate premises of the FIFA Goal Project in Hawksbay Scheme 42 here were the venue for the friendly match between U-17 Pakistan Internationals XI and District West XI.

The match came almost a year on from Dawn exclusively revealing that the project, awarded in 2006 “to provide facilities for the training of the national teams”, wasn’t complete despite the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) claiming it was “fully functional”.

The project had been kept under wraps with an insight report by international news agency Reuters in September last year reaffirming that the project was indeed incomplete.

The SFA officials did open the doors to media for the AFC Grassroots Day activity but the project remains as it was a year ago.

The facility is one of seven incomplete FIFA Goal Projects which were awarded to Pakistan.

And with FIFA increasing the development aid to each of its member associations from $400,000 to $1.25 million per year in its 2015-2018 budget, approved during its Congress in Mexico City on Friday, the PFF presents a classic case for concern.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino did, however, warn that FIFA would show “no mercy” to any federation that misused money allocated to it for football development after making the announcement, which was loudly cheered.

“Don’t betray us. Don’t misuse the money. Use it for football,” he told the delegates.

WAKE-UP CALL

The announcement would’ve certainly woken up SFA president Khadim Ali Shah, who in pictures broadcast by FIFA TV seemed to be catching up on some sleep at the Congress.

Khadim was one member of a three-member delegation sent by the PFF faction, which is recognised by FIFA but not by the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The other two, according to well-placed sources, were ex-Additional Inspector-General Punjab Police Khalif Latif and PFF’s administration director retired Major Jahangir Khan Lodhi — both of whom are, surprisingly, not PFF Congress members.

Khalid was a former PFF Congress member and his only involvement in the PFF of late has been to hold the elections of the country’s football governing body in June last year in violation of an order by the LHC.

After a full-blown dispute over the controversial Punjab Football Association (PFA) elections in April saw the PFF split into two factions, and as the two groups — one led by incumbent president Faisal Saleh Hayat and the other by contender and vice-president Zahir Ali Shah — headed into the polls, the LHC intervened and ordered a stay on the elections.

The Hayat group however went on to hold the elections — with Khalid as the election commissioner — and that has resulted in a drawn-out battle against the honourable court which appointed retired Justice Asad Munir as PFF Administrator till the issue is resolved.

FIFA, meanwhile, has backed Hayat and has given him two years to conduct fresh elections.

EMBEZZLING FUNDS

Hayat was last year the focus of a Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) investigation, accused of embezzling development funds given by FIFA and AFC, but successfully thwarted it claiming the PFF wasn’t answerable to local authorities.

He, along with the general secretary of his PFF faction retired Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi and the controversially-elected PFA president Sardar Naveed Haider Khan, were in March served contempt notices by the LHC for impersonating as PFF delegation during FIFA’s Extraordinary Congress meeting in February where Infantino elected president of the scandal-hit world body.

Khadim, Khalid and Jahangir can expect the same.

After the congress the trio attended and voted on behalf of the PFF, FIFA’s chief reformer Domenico Scala resigned as the head of its Audit and Compliance Committee to protest changes in the global body which he says will imperil efforts to eliminate corruption.

Scala said the vote by FIFA to let the ruling council dismiss members of its independent advisory bodies his audit and compliance committee and the ethics committee — would leave them “in danger of becoming auxiliary agents of those whom they should actually supervise”.

The Swiss was going to push for term limits amongst FIFA’s confederations and its member associations after his reform package, which was accepted by the FIFA Congress, advocating a three-term limit for key FIFA posts.

ETHICS INVESTIGATION

“I’ve been advocating them [term limits] for a long time and I believe that the standards set will trickle

down on the football pyramid and not just stop at FIFA,” he told Dawn during a conference call in December. “I think that it is a necessary step to root out corruption from football.”

The PFF case at the LHC also hinges on the Hayat faction not accepting term limits for sports federations set by the government. Hayat has been in power since 2003.

Well-placed sources told Dawn on Monday that the petition by the faction regarding the National Sports Policy has been dismissed.

The PFF, meanwhile, faces investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee for its inability to construct a flood relief project, worth $650,000, sanctioned by the AFC and former FIFA vice-president Dr Chung Mong-Joon.

The AFC had asked the ethics committee to investigate.

The other investigation centres on the sale of 2014 FIFA World Cup tickets.

“In order to protect any possible investigations, we are not in a position to indicate if we have or have not investigatory proceedings against an individual,” the committee spokesperson Roman Geiser told Dawn last month.

With unfinished Goal projects aplenty, FIFA has a task on its hands to make sure that the increased development fund does make a difference to the game in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2016

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