Faisal Saleh Hayat is a renowned political personality of the country. For the country’s sports fraternity he’s the president of Pakistan Football Federation, now eyeing a controversial fourth term in office.
His critics have been questioning his motives to stay in office and asking what he has done for the game in Pakistan in last twelve years. Many have accused him of mishandling the funds, while others say Faisal is only serving his vested interests.
‘The News on Sunday’ recently interviewed him. He spoke about allegations, goal projects, FIFA issues and his “achievements” in last 12 years. Here are excerpts from the interview.
The News On Sunday [TNS]: You have been heading PFF for more than 12 years and now aiming for the fourth term in office. What have you done for the game in last three tenures?
Faisal Saleh Hayat [FSH]: There’s a long list but I’ll keep it precise. There was no infrastructure of football in the country, no proper league system & PFF was not well-known internationally. Now PFF is well-recognised and included in various committees of FIFA and AFC. We now have a proper infrastructure of football in the country, and a proper football league is in place. We’ve launched football activities at different levels and started our women team.
Our players, both men and women, are being contracted by foreign teams. If football had not been improving, why would these players have been in demand? I would also add that while Pakistan remained a no-go area for different sports teams after 2009, we successfully hosted 35 different tournaments of different levels. Isn’t this a big achievement?
TNS: But when we look at the ranking, Pakistan team is seen nowhere; why don’t we see Pakistan football team among best teams of the world?
FSH: We are a growing nation in football and improving gradually. We need to understand that football is not the first or even second game in Pakistan. There was a time when football was in complete oblivion, but now I can say that after cricket and hockey, football is one of the most widely followed game here.
In Pakistan, 95 percent of share is enjoyed by cricket. There is a national non-commitment towards sports in general and that’s why we are not able to grow in other sports. When we compare our game with other countries, we must keep in mind that how the corporates in other countries, such as India, are helping in sports development. People also compare rankings. Ranking keeps on changing and it has a lot to do with how much you play. If we get sufficient funds, we will start playing on every FIFA day, which will automatically boost our ranking. One must see that one tour costs at least eight million rupees, and for that most of the time we rely on sponsorship from other FAs.
TNS: What is Pakistan’s position on controversies in FIFA?
FSH: Our stance is very clear: nothing has been proved so far. A lot of people have said a lot of things in the media, but the fact is that nothing has been proved on any appropriate forum.
TNS: A lot of people have also accused you of corruption? What’s your response? There were reports that PFF was possibly bribed $400,000 to support Dr. Chung in AFC vice-president’s election?
FSH: It is the easiest thing to accuse anyone of corruption. Where would I do corruption? How would I do it and why would I do it? If anyone has proof against me, please bring it forward. I am in football for my passion, not for money. As far as Dr Chung’s money is concerned, it was given on humanitarian ground. Dr Chung’s philanthropic work is known everywhere and he donated the money for rehabilitation after the devastating flood in Pakistan. The money came 11 months after AFC’s election, which Dr Chung lost. Why would someone pay the bribe for the election he lost, that too after the elections? These are just baseless allegations.
TNS: So, what’s the update on the project you were to launch in Jhang with the money donated by Dr Chung and the AFC?
FSH: We were facing non-corporation from the Punjab government on this project. We’ve requested them for a piece of land to start the project, but they never entertained us. We got $400,000 from Dr Chung and another $250,000 from the AFC for that project but we are still waiting for the land. If there was delay in release of money then people would have been calling us incompetent. It is like damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And let me tell you, if we don’t get land in Jhang for “AFC-Dr Chung project” in next four to five months, then we’ll move the project to some other city, possibly Chaman.
TNS: What about the goal projects? Are all the projects completed and functional?
FSH: We have two major goal projects, one in Lahore and one in Karachi, both complete and functional. Other than that, we were allocated a project after earthquake which we decided to develop in Peshawar. There was an impression that the project was moved from Muzaffarabad to Peshawar. Let me clarify that. It was not possible for us to have a project built in Muzaffarabad due to technical issues. It would have doubled the cost to build something which can survive another earthquake so we preferred Peshawar. Then after 2010 floods, we got five projects and they’re in Jacobabad, Sukkur, Quetta, Abbottabad and Khanewal.
Khanweal project is a big one where we are also laying artificial turf, donated by FIFA. Karachi will also get an artificial turf, which is likely to be approved by November. There is one more point which needs clarity. None of the GP payments are made to PFF, and all the payments are made to contractors directly by the FIFA.
TNS: What’s your take on recent development in PFF, the extraordinary congress called by a group of people in Islamabad which announced your suspension?
FSH: They don’t have any legal standing; those who gathered in Islamabad on Tuesday night have no stakes in Pakistan football; they were just scared of defeat in upcoming elections; hence they brought PFF into disrepute.
I am telling you that this is nothing but a move by the government to take PFF over. It seems that they have not learnt anything from the POA episode. We are going to resist every such move. Isn’t it surprising that the meeting, and I would call it an “invisible” meeting, didn’t invite any independent observers from the media. There was a similar attempt to take over the Football House by the government sponsored “qabza-mafia” in April, but with the force of constitution, that move was thwarted. PFF will take appropriate action against all the individuals who were involved in this unconstitutional, illegal and unethical affair.
TNS: Do you agree with our head coach Shamlan’s policy of not including foreign-based players?
FSH: We have given Shamlan free hand and we don’t interfere in his work. Personally, I am of the view that foreign-based players should come and play in Pakistan. Their presence will help Pakistan a lot. But it is compulsory to get them gelled up with our local players. We usually start our preparatory camp four to six weeks before any event and if foreign-based players can join the camp then it’ll help, but if they come a day before the match then it won’t help anyone; it will create more problems, technically.
Also, the foreign-based players need to understand that Pakistan’s colour is not for them to use for personal gains. I won’t name anyone, but players should show commitment to Pakistan.
TNS: Do you think our league matches the international standards?
FSH: Certainly not. We are improving and I believe we are going in the right direction. We are making efforts to make it a proper professional football league; departments are playing their role; we are making efforts to empower clubs in an attempt to professionalise the PPFL; for that we are also working on coaches development. Corporates should come forward; if they come and help our football, then that that day is not far when people will start following PPFL keenly.
TNS: What’s your manifesto for the next four years?
FSH: We’ll try to improve our structure further, to take forward the infrastructure that we’ve developed in the last few years. We are aiming to improve and work on youth football, because if we invest in our youth today, they’ll become super stars tomorrow.