Jan 4 - 10, 2010

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)'s President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat (MNA) has acclaimed the launch of the Vision Asia as a milestone in the country's football history and called year 2009 as one of the most successful years in 62-year history of Pakistan. He said this while addressing PFF Congress meeting at Lahore's FIFA Football House.

Earlier, he chaired Executive Committee meeting during which minutes of the 24th June Congress meeting were approved. The PFF Chief also congratulated Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) team for winning both the top events of PFF on behalf of Congress members.

"AFC President Mohammed bin Hamman picked PFF as 15th country to join Vision Asia and it was launched on 13 April 2009 when AFC representative met me for pre-assessment visit. It was first big milestone in year 2009 for PFF, followed by another on 7 May 2009 at Kuala Lumpur, when AFC Distinguished Services Awards were handed out during AFC 23rd Congress to selected individuals who played major roles in the success of Asian football over the years. Former Pakistani FIFA Referee Ahmed Ali and two national skippers Jaffar Khan, Muhammad Essa took the award from FIFA President Sepp Blatter," Faisal said.

The PFF Chief said, "The standard of football in the country is being enhanced day by day and we have tuned the game to such a frequency that sponsor are finding attraction. Pakistan has the large pool of footballers and the number is growing with each passing day. A big sigh of relief went round Pakistan footballing circles when Khadim Ali Shah Bukhari (KASB) Group of Companies became the sponsor of the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) from 2009 to 2013 on 20 June 2009."

Earlier in April, 19th National Football Challenge Cup was sponsored by NBP that proved that sponsors are now finding attraction in this game, he said.

On pitch several jubilant moments were reserved for PFF officials. During third AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers (Group-D) at Sugathadasa Stadium in Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, Lower Dir-born Safiullah Khan hit four goals in 6-0 trouncing of Brunei Darussalam on 6th April, becoming first-ever (and only) Pakistani to score four goals in an FIFA-recognized international.

"Safi is still joint leading scorer of the event. The year saw foreign bodies accepted our industrious efforts for football uplift and inducted three PFF's officials into their bodies. The eighth meeting of the AFC Executive Committee on 15 July 2009 saw myself getting the privilege of becoming Chairman of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Disciplinary Committee and on same day, PFF's Secretary General Lt.Col (R) Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi listed into AFC Vision Asia Bureau as member."

Later, PFF Vice President Syed Khadim Ali Shah became Senior Vice President (SVP) of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) during the 3rd October SAFF Congress. Pakistan WAPDA, on 14 June, cruised into semi-final of fifth AFC President's Cup 2009. This is first time in the 42-year history of Asian Club Competitions, under Asian Football Confederation, that a Pakistani club forced its way into last four. The record transfer of Muhammad Essa from KRL to KESC (Rs.50,000 per month) on 11 July was also talk of the year and it is first instance of such kind as someone getting handsome amount just for playing domestic soccer.

Faisal believes that adopting Vision Asia would make Pakistan more competitive in famed competitions such as the World Cup, Olympics.

"The impact of the Vision Asia-Pakistan program cannot be felt and seen overnight, but I am sure there is no way to go but up."

Vision Asia is a program initiated to raise the standard of football in the Asian region through a holistic approach, he added.

The idea of Vision Asia is to help the different countries in the region develop their individual structures best suited to their individual environment.

Talking about his talks with FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter during 6th FIFA World Club Cup final at the Abu Dhabi's Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on 19 December, he said, "I was invited by AFC President Mohammed bin Hammam and United Arab Emirates Football Association President Mohamed Al-Rumaithi to watch Barcelona-Estudiantes clash. I discuss with FIFA Chief a roadmap for the development of Pakistan football and he appreciated the football promotion work since 2003 and said that the time is not far way when Pakistan will be among top playing nations of Asia."

Blatter is convinced the standard of the game in Pakistan has greatly improved in recent years and it is one of his ambitions to land on this country. Faisal once again reminded that our main target is to complete SAF Games hat-trick next year when Dhaka will stage 11th South Asian Games. We will develop strong Pakistan U23 team to give us third gold on the trot after triumphs in 2004 and 2006.

Faisal pledged to continue his drive to youth development, women soccer and to professionalize the game in Pakistan.

"We have achieved a lot in the last six years and enhancement of Pakistan soccer exposure to 3000 % from 2003 to 2008 as compare to activities from 1998 to 2003. This shows that we are serious and committed about uplift and welfare of this game in this part of the world. It is remarkable that PFF is the only body affiliated with 46-member AFC to get three Goal Projects and more are in highway."

AFC, in recognition of PFF making football happening sport, assured increased financial and technical support. Hammam, Faisal said, also showed satisfaction over AFC AID-27 Financial Assistance Scheme through which 27 Youth Coaches are showing their progress throughout Pakistan and said that soon the amount of Scheme would be raised to $ 10,000 from $ 6,000 in order to allow PFF to engage more Youth Coaches for imparting training to the young footballers of different age groups under Grass Root and Youth Development Program.

The increment in number of coaches will also help in achieving the target of PFF Vision 2020 which PFF has unveiled in 21 June 2008 - PFF Congress, added Faisal who is also AFC Disciplinary Committee member. Faisal added, "Hamman also hailed current PFF setup for superb organization of AFC U14 Festival of Football 2006 and AFC President's Cup 2007 and awarded us hosting rights of Group-D of 36th AFC U19 Championship Qualifier 2009 despite security concern. The six team show will provide perfect boost to Pakistani football and it will help to exploit the untapped potential of the game in this country when Uzbekistan, runners-up of the previous edition, will fight it out with Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Turkmenistan and Maldives in coming November."

PFF's annual budget is lurking around Rs. 40 million, clearly unrivaled with Rs. 800 plus million annual budget of All India Football Federation (AIFF).

"Yet we keep on producing sensational results as compared to our neighbors. We overwhelmed Kyrgyzstan, Chinese Taipei, Turkmenistan, Singapore, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal and drew with Iraq, Iran, Oman, China and Bahrain in recent events. We bagged our fourth gold in SAF Games history in 2006, outpacing India's three."

But there is still much to be done and it will be my endeavor to see that Pakistan football is one day recognized as the best, at least in Asia, he wished. We need to set the highest benchmark possible in terms of professionalism, said Faisal, the 17th President in PFF's 60-year history. (KS)