FIFA working with PFF NC to salvage Pakistan’s Goal Projects

KARACHI: Global football governing body FIFA is working together with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee to revive the country’s Goal Projects that have been lying in ruins for the last several years.

Speaking at a news conference via a video-link on Wednesday, PFF Normalisation Committee chairman Humza Khan told reporters that FIFA had asked him to look at how the country’s Goal projects can be spared from total destruction. On Friday, FIFA indicated that it is looking at “potential infrastructure projects”.

“FIFA is working hand in hand with the PFF Normalisation Committee to promote the holistic development of football in Pakistan,” a FIFA spokesperson told Dawn. “In line with the FIFA Forward objectives, we are currently assessing the best options, including potential infrastructure projects. Further details will follow.”

Pakistan’s Goal projects are a sad story. Of the eight given to Pakistan, only one — the PFF House in Lahore, the country’s football headquarters — is complete and functional. Another six seem hastily built, and are grossly under-utilised, while the one in Peshawar was cancelled.

Those projects were given to Pakistan as part of FIFA’s Goal Programme, the brainchild of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter which aimed at providing football infrastructure and facilities including pitches, technical centres and youth academies for the development of the game.

The Goal Programme was replaced by the Forward Programme following Gianni Infantino’s election as FIFA president in 2016, after a high-profile scandal rocked the world’s football governing body and led to its overhaul.

The Forward Programme not only promised more investment but more oversight and accountability too, one that the Goal Programme never had. The impact of that is nowhere as profound as in Pakistan.

In 2015, Dawn uncovered how the Goal Projects awarded to Pakistan, especially the four in 2010, were part of an intricate deal to curry favour in elections of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Apart from the one in Lahore, all others were awarded to Pakistan during the time when Faisal Saleh Hayat was the PFF president.

Hayat’s 16-year reign as the country’s football chief ended last year when FIFA appointed the Normalisation Committee to control the affairs of Pakistan football after nearly half of the last decade was mired in crisis and controversy with two groups fighting over the control of the PFF.

The infighting in the PFF has meant the condition of the Goal Projects, already non-functional, has gone from bad to worse.

The boundary walls of the Karachi Goal Project have collapsed. A pitch was never part of the plan. A building, now dilapidated and usually deserted, stands as a technical centre. All of that cost $505,958, with FIFA paying that amount in full to the contractors of the project: Hi Tech Constructors and Atif Nazar Associates.

Another four Goal projects, which involved the building of technical centres in Abbottabad, Quetta, Sukkur and Jacobabad, were awarded to Pakistan in 2010 as part of FIFA’s assistance programme for the victims of floods that year.

Anjum Adil Associates were hired as the consultants for the four projects and tasked to finalise the contractors. Apart from the one in Quetta, the other three aren’t in PFF’s control. The reason being that the PFF of Hayat refused to take possession.

Prompt Engineers and Constructors were the contractors for the Sukkur and Jacobabad projects and the project has remained on hold since July 2016, when the firm’s owner passed away. The PFF of Hayat never followed up on those projects to appoint a new contractor.

The contractors for the Abbottabad technical centre were A Plus A International and while the building was completed, it lacks in basic amenities like electricity, gas or water. The PFF never took over its control despite a visit from two FIFA development officers to the project site in October 2015.

That delegation of development officers also visited the Quetta project, which like the one in Karachi features a building overlooking a dusty pitch. The technical centre was recently offered by the PFF Normalisation Committee to the Balochistan government for Covid-19 relief work in the province.

With the Goal Programme now replaced by the Forward Programme, most links regarding the former are now not accessible on the FIFA website. The latest link Dawn was able to retrieve was from October 2017, according to which FIFA had paid nearly $1.7 million of the total of $2 million to the contractors and consultants of the four projects.

Hayat’s PFF has claimed in the past that since FIFA paid contractors and consultants directly, it absolved them of any responsibility that the Goal Projects are in such a state. The officials of the Hayat-led PFF in the past have also given wrong accounts of projects being functional or complete. What they haven’t disclosed, however, is the fact that the contractors and consultants were nominated by them for FIFA to approve.

Anjum Adil Associates were also made consultants of the final Goal Project awarded to Pakistan in 2015, which involved the laying of an artificial turf in Khanewal. In 2018, Hayat had claimed that FIFA president Infantino will visit Pakistan to see the completion of Sukkur, Jacobabad and Khanewal projects. FIFA has made almost all payments bar one to the contractor.

Various sources have confirmed to Dawn that Anjum Adil Associates have contacted FIFA, asking them for compensation of the cost being incurred by the contractors for the maintenance of the projects that are yet to be taken over by the PFF. Anjum Adil Associates did not respond to queries by Dawn on Saturday, when asked for a comment on the compensation they are asking for.

PFF Normalisation Committee chairman, meanwhile, told Dawn on Saturday that he was “planning to form a two-member committee to check the status of the Goal Projects and coordinate with FIFA over reviving them”.

“We need to see for ourselves of the amount of work that remains and see what needs to be done,” he added.

The key duty of the PFF Normalisation Committee, which has a mandate till December, is to hold fresh elections in the PFF. But if it could salvage the Goal Projects in Pakistan and make them functional, it would be a huge service to the game in the country that has seen its development stunted in the recent past.

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