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Was PFF involved in the ‘Qatar-gate’ controversy?


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PFF chief Faisal Saleh Hayat meets FIFA president Sepp Blatter during his visit to the FIFA House in Zurich last week.—courtesy PFF

KARACHI: As president of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), Faisal Saleh Hayat’s contacts and persona have led to him being an influential figure in both FIFA and AFC.

And with world football’s governing body involved in a bit of a quagmire regarding the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it’s only natural that the PFF was named in an admirable wide-ranging investigation by the Sunday Times into FIFA corruption.

Although not directly involved in the bid process for the hosting rights, the report said the PFF was beneficiary of $15,000 in bribes along with numerous Goal Projects in the lead up to the vote in December 2010 in Zurich where Qatar’s bid, led by disgraced former AFC president Mohammed Bin Hammam, won the right to stage the FIFA showpiece in 2022.

Last Friday, US federal prosecutor Michael J. Garcia, leading the probe into the bidding process submitted a 350-page report to the Adjudicatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee.

“Now that the investigatory chamber has handed its report over to the adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee, the adjudicatory chamber shall now review the investigation files and render a decision,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn when inquired about the implications the findings of Garcia’s report might bring along.

“Please note that in accordance with art. 36 of the Code of Ethics only the final decision of the adjudicatory chamber may be made public. We have no further comments at this stage.”

Garcia’s report, which took almost a year to be compiled, includes testimonies of some 75 witnesses but is being kept under wraps pending penalties against those who transgressed.

Whether it includes anything relating the PFF remains a mystery.

“We are not able to assist with your inquiry at this moment,” a spokeswoman from Garcia’s firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP said when enquired by Dawn, although FIFA’s chief investigator had asked the Sunday Times to provide him with all the evidence from its investigation alleging payments to officials.

Garcia’s report, sent to FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert of Germany, recommends sanctioning certain individuals.

An email to Eckert’s office by Dawn wasn’t returned.

Eckert can apply sanctions against anyone who worked for the nine bid candidates at the time or anyone who was a voting Executive Committee member at the time.

Could Hayat or the PFF officials be sanctioned then?

“There was no wrongdoing on our part,” Hayat told Dawn on the sidelines of the AFC Extraordinary Congress in Sao Paulo in June where the ‘Qatar-gate’ scandal was one of topics hotly discussed.

“The payments that the Sunday Times is talking about are the ones we received from [FIFA’s] Goal Bureau [whose grants provide financial support for member associations across the world].”

All that, however, could change if Garcia was able to include a testimony by another disgraced AFC official Vernon Manilal Fernando in his report.

A former FIFA development official, Fernando was Bin Hammam’s right-hand man.

Bin Hammam was the chairman of the Goal Bureau before his failed campaign to unseat FIFA chief Sepp Blatter in the presidential elections in May 2011.

The Qatari, who became AFC president in 2002, withdrew his candidacy from challenging Blatter three days before the vote.

FIFA’s ethics committee then announced Bin Hammam was suspended due to allegations he had bribed 25 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) members with $1m in total.

Bin Hammam was banned from all football-related activities in 2012.

Hayat was one of Bin Hammam’s close allies – something the PFF chief doesn’t deny.

With allegations of corruptions in the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar already swirling, Blatter was re-elected in a controversial poll.

GOOD RELATIONS

“I had very good relations with Bin Hammam and wouldn’t deny that,” Hayat said, “… but then I also enjoy very close ties with Blatter.”

So close that the PFF has already assured Blatter of its support when the 78-year-old Swiss runs for a fifth, four year-term in-charge of world football.

“Due to his visionary, innovative football development programmes, solid policies and dynamic leadership, Faisal Saleh Hayat assures Sepp Blatter Pakistan’s full support in the next FIFA presidential elections,” said a PFF media release on Wednesday.

FORMER AFC president Mohammed Bin Hammam.—AP/file

The vote of support came two days after Blatter announced his intention to prolong his stay at FIFA president, a post he’s held onto since 1998, in a video speech at the Soccerex Global Convention in Manchester.

Blatter enjoys huge support from five of the six continental confederations with the exception of UEFA, arguably the strongest amongst the bunch.

UEFA leaders are calling for fresh change at the FIFA helm, citing controversy-filled years of Blatter have tarnished FIFA’s image – most notably the bidding process for the Qatar vote.

Michel Platini, the UEFA president who voted for Qatar in December 2010, is the most senior football executive to demand a revote if Garcia’s global probe of corruption allegations reveals concrete evidence of wrongdoing.

That would also involve officials who have been accused of being bribed by Bin Hammam.

“In the recent AFC Congress in Brazil, there was a strong sense of support for the FIFA President, and Sepp Blatter himself has shown great support for the Asian Football Confederation,” AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa told Dawn in a statement on Saturday.

“I truly believe that the Confederation and Mr. Blatter have been working well together and I have every confidence that this mutual co-operation will continue for as long as he holds the position of FIFA President.”

Experts believe the fact that the AFC members are supporting Blatter for re-election is because they hope the Swiss can save them from the wrath of the decisions made by the ethics committee with Bin Hamman having allegedly used slush funds to make payments totaling more than $5m to officials across the continent.

Pakistan received $15000 (allegedly in a personal account), $500,000 each for eight Goal Projects and an unending supply of cash from AFC’s Aid 27 programme.

“It’s all because of my contacts,” Hayat said. “The fact that we got the most Goal projects in the world is because of the good contacts we enjoy in FIFA.

“I’d like to ask the chiefs of other sports bodies to also develop good contacts with their global governing bodies because it always helps.”

One of those good contacts was Fernando.

In his position as FIFA’s development officer for South and Central Asia, the former Football Federation of Sri Lanka (FFSL) visited Pakistan several times ­— most of those visits regarding the allocation of funds to the Goal Projects.

“It can be said that Manilal [Fernando] did a lot for development of football in Pakistan by assigning funds for the Goal Projects,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn on Thursday.

But what did Fernando ask for in return? Votes at the AFC elections is what the Ethics Committee report revealed after he was banned for life by FIFA in October 2013 for breaking ethics rules including conflict of interest, bribery, and accepting gifts.

He lodged an appeal with CAS to overturn his ban but is yet to receive a hearing date.

FIFA held Fernando at fault for interfering with the May 2009 AFC election to the FIFA Executive Committee by inciting the PFF and Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) to breach election secrecy.

FERNANDO CLAIMS

Fernando had handed over two mobile phones to the representatives from Pakistan and Afghanistan to photograph their ballot papers inside the voting booth.

This he had confirmed in an email to an assistant of Bin Hammam four days after the election victory.

“At the end of an election many people will claim that they voted for you, but I am only 100% sure of Pakistan and Afghanistan because I sent a mobile phone and both photographed the ballot paper inside the booth and showed it to me,” the Ethics Committee report quoted Fernando as having written in his email to Hammam’s assistant.

Fernando did not deny writing the said email but claimed “that the message was a mere puff” and that he had “actually lied in the email”.

FIFA’s former Development Officer Vernon Manilal Fernando (second L) sits next to PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat during a press conference on his visit to Pakistan in April 2010.—PFF/File

“Of course our president [Hayat] wouldn’t have done that [show the ballot paper],” a PFF official with knowledge of the situation told Dawn on Sunday, “… but the way football works is that if someone is supporting you [by giving development projects], you have to oblige by giving them your vote.

“That’s how the world works, doesn’t it?”

In the acrimonious elections in May 2009, Bin Hammam was running against incumbent AFC chief Sheikh Salman of Bahrain for West Asia’s seat on the FIFA ExCo.

Bin Hammam won the vote with 23 votes to Sheikh Salman’s 21.

A month later, at the AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Hayat was made the Chairman of the AFC Disciplinary Committee after Sheikh Salman resigned.

“Faisal’s commitment as PFF chief is triumph for Pakistan’s players, coaches, referees and administrators,” Bin Hammam said at that time. “The football family stands solidly behind the PFF chief for his tremendous accomplishment in such a short span of time.”

Two months later, Lodhi was included in AFC’s Vision Asia programme as a member.

Seems to add up?

Bin Hammam’s election to the FIFA ExCo seat meant he was now one of 24 members who had a say on the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, with the vote set to be held in December 2010.

For that, he was counting on support once again from his backers spread across South Asia.

And once again, he needed his chum Fernando to get the odds in his favour.

With Bin Hammam campaigning hard for Qatar’s hosting bid, for it to win, he needed the support – and the vote – of FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-Joon, whose native South Korea too were in the race to host the World Cup in 2022.

Bin Hammam needed Chung’s vote for Qatar instead of Korea in December. Both had been bitter rivals before but the Qatari won his support by assuring him of re-election to his FIFA vice-president seat from Asia in the AFC elections.

Fernando was also running for a seat on the FIFA ExCo in those elections in January 2011 and his job was to confirm votes for Chung, Bin Hammam and himself.

In April 2010, Fernando came to Pakistan to approve the contractor for the Goal Project in Karachi. The academy in Hawkesbay area here was approved in 2006 and its date of completion was set for January 2013, according to PFF’s records.

More than 20 months later, it’s yet to be inaugurated.

FIFA president Blatter doesn’t usually undertake evaluations on construction of different projects, instead, it’s the duty of the development officer who has to “monitor the utilisation, maintenance and success of the project”, according to FIFA’s regulations on Goal Projects.

The development officer here was Fernando, severely criticized back in his home country for misallocation of funds for Goal Projects.

CRUCIAL VISIT

Fernando’s second visit to Pakistan on October 6, 2010 was crucial.

This time he awarded Pakistan three more Goal Projects in Jacobabad, Abbottabad and Khanewal following ones in Lahore (PFF House), Peshawar (Shahi Bagh) and Karachi.

“We are also looking for construction of Goal Projects at Quetta, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas, Nowshera, Faisalabad, Multan and Bahawalpur,” Hayat said at that time during a gala dinner hosted in honour of Fernando in Lahore.

“Three of those cities will have Goal projects, one will have a project by AFC and FIFA vice-president Dr. Chung and Football Federation Australia (FFA) President Frank Lowy.

“We hope to fill other three cities with three more such projects and if plans go accordingly, we will have 12 Goal Projects by the late 2013 – by far more than any for other FIFA members.”

Fernando had been told what the PFF wanted.

On October 20, he sent Chung a message: “I have just returned from Dubai, where I had a meeting with my group. All these countries agreed to support Mr Bin Hammam for president, you for FIFA vice-president and myself for Fifa Exco member. Already Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Nepal and Tajikistan have signed your nomination. In addition Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Uzbekistan and Pakistan will send your nominations directly to the AFC to Mr Bin Hammam.”

The meeting in Dubai occurred during the FIFA Member Associations’ Presidents & General Secretaries Seminar.

“FIFA Member Associations President’s & General Secretaries Seminar were held at Dubai from 17th to 19th October 2010, Lt. Col (Retd) Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi TI (M) General Secretary PFF attended,” says PFF’s President Activity Report for 2010.

Three days later, Fernando sent a mail to another of Bin Hammam’s disgraced aides Najib Chirakal: “I am sending here with the DO colobo fiches for the next GB approval. I have already submitted these fiches hard copies to you and David. Explain everything to David. I shall be glad if you could get GB approval for these projects.”

Amongst those projects were six for Pakistan: Quetta, Multan, Faisalabad, Mirpurkhas, Sukkur and Nowshera.

Projects for Quetta and Sukkur were approved that year, taking the number of Goal Projects in Pakistan to eight.

In all, Pakistan has received $4,000,000 (Rs40 crores) for Goal Projects, a PFF official declared.

The Sunday Times report alleged Hayat of receiving another $15000 in a personal account in November 2010.

Hayat denies any foul play in getting the Goal Projects.

“Whatever I’ve done is for the benefit and growth of Pakistan football,” he told Dawn, after the foundation stone for the Khanewal Goal Project was laid last month.

“The PFF is committed to the growth of football at grassroots level and our getting eight Goal Projects is a step towards realising that goal of ours.

“Our accounts are frequently audited and if there was foul play, our funding for the goal projects would’ve been stopped.”

Is it a mere coincidence then that since Fernando got elected to the FIFA ExCo in the AFC elections in January 2011, Pakistan hasn’t received a Goal Project?

“Of course first the eight that we have need to be completed,” Lodhi said, “… then of course we’ll get more.”

In December 2010, with Chung getting all the assurances he needed from Bin Hammam, Qatar won the right to host the World Cup in 2022.

The AFC elections in January 2011 saw Bin Hamman re-elected president of Asia’s football governing body but Chung was stung as Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussain was elected as FIFA’s vice-president from Asia.

Bin Hammam later made it up to Chung by getting him back in FIFA as honorary vice-president.

THE AFTERMATH

In the AFC elections, Hayat was also voted onto the AFC ExCo before also being made chairman of the AFC Legal Committee as the AFC Congress in March 2011.

How did he repay his loyalty to Bin Hammam?

In his position as Legal Committee chairman, Hayat has been alleged to thwart an attempt to form an ethics taskforce to deal with governance and mismanagement during Bin Hammam’s reign in November 2012, five months after the Qatari was banned for life.

Fernando was banned in October 2013, three years after a visit to Pakistan in which he allocated three Goal Projects.

At the laying of the foundation stone for one of those projects last month in Khanewal, Hayat declared the academy would be “a milestone for football development in Pakistan”.

Another milestone probably came last week when Blatter “showed his commitment for allocation of two artificial turfs for Pakistan worth $1.2 million” during his meeting with Hayat.

It would be the first allocation of development funds by FIFA since the ouster of Fernando.

Blatter has no shortage of support from AFC, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, CAF and Oceania but UEFA is ramping up the pressure.

On Monday, former FIFA officer Jerome Champagne announced his candidacy for the presidential elections.

Blatter is under fire. Experts are calling for his head with Eckert to announce his decision later this month.

“The report [by Garcia] should be published, transgressions punished and Blatter made to resign because it happened on his watch,” renowned English football journalist Henry Winter told Dawn.

“Sadly I can’t see any of those three happening,” added the Telegraph writer.

The good news for Pakistan, however if Blatter is re-elected, could be that Hayat can fulfil his vow to inflate the tally of Goal Projects in the country to12.

Those development projects, and the current ones, would put the PFF on course to realise their ‘Vision 2022’ programme.

That plans aims at seeing the national football team qualify for the World Cup in Qatar — the event for whose hosting rights the PFF president is alleged to have had an impact upon.

Note: The Sunday Times report can be accessed on its website behind a paywall. The e-mails discussed can be accessed on the internet. Vernon Manilal Fernando’s trips to Pakistan are all documented in the PFF archives.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2014

 

http://www.dawn.com/...ate-controversy


"But the thing about Ronaldo... Ronaldo could play for Millwall, QPR, Doncaster Rovers or anyone and he'd score a hat-trick. I'm not sure Messi could do it." - Sir Alex Ferguson


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fahadzafar

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nice sharing its amazing one keep sharing i really appreciated 


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