In a world where sports can transcend boundaries and inspire change, the endeavour known as Football for Peace, birthed by Kashif Siddiqi and co-founder Elias Figueroa, a three-time South American Footballer of The Year and a Chilean World Cup player in 1966, 1974, and 1982, initially seemed like a noble cause. However, recent events have cast a shadow over its impact, especially regarding Siddiqi’s outreach to underprivileged youth.

Kashif Siddiqi’s journey, which commenced in Arsenal’s youth team, is punctuated with personal triumphs. His representation of Pakistan at the senior international level has elevated him to a revered status among football enthusiasts. Beyond the pitch, Siddiqi has carved out a reputation as a celebrity and philanthropist, even establishing a foundation in his name.

Siddiqi’s prominence caught the attention of media outlets, as witnessed in the opening of The Mesut Ozil Centre in October 2021. This centre, a collaborative effort between Siddiqi, Bradford AFC, the University of Bradford, and the Football Association, aims to nurture South Asian football talent from grassroots levels. On the surface, Siddiqi seems like a local hero driving positive change. However, recent rumblings have raised concerns about the activities of his charity, Football for Peace (FFP).

The mission statement of Football for Peace declares an intention to “serve and unlock the power of football globally” while focusing on marginalised communities across the world. Yet, despite scrolling through their website, tangible charitable outcomes remain elusive. The absence of boots on the turf and players in prominent football leagues like the Premier League, Championship, League One, or League Two begs the question – are FFP’s efforts merely confined to promotion and fundraising?

The scepticism surrounding FFP escalated when its Chief Operating Officer, Sal Hatteea, voiced ethical concerns about Kashif Siddiqi’s conduct. Hatteea’s resignation last year, citing financial irregularities and a compromised board of trustees, hinted at deeper issues within the organisation. Hatteea’s critique unveiled a troubling picture – one of Siddiqi’s alleged self-serving financial motivations.

Hatteea’s revelations paint Siddiqi as prioritising personal financial gain over the charity’s purpose. The financial contrast between Siddiqi’s personal accounts and FFP’s lack of funds raised eyebrows. Accusations of misusing FFP resources for personal enrichment cast further doubts on Siddiqi’s commitment to the charity’s mission.

Hatteea told Asian Sunday: “Kashif is only interested in making money for himself and not for FFP. That is why, after eight years, FFP has struggled, whereas he (Siddiqi) has not. Saddiqi’s goal was always to make enough money to be able to buy a house for cash and no mortgage.

“In the last accounts for his company KSF Direct Ltd, he had more than £100k cash in the bank with a further £100k as debtors, whereas FFP had none. Where has this money come from? Very likely from the same people he has been working with for FFP, but since he holds the IP for FFP personally, he will try to get the licence fees to his company and deprive FFP. How else can he accumulate wealth?

Hatteea added: “He spends all his time in meetings, and yet the result of the meetings is not evident in FFP, but in all likelihood, in KSF Direct Ltd. The FFP revenue has been halved in the previous two years, and he appears to be using FFP money and people to enrich himself.

“He takes his wife and mother on foreign and UK trips when they have nothing to do with the business but, when questioned, says that they are doing pro bono work for FFP. Really? Who do they report to, if not Siddiqi?”

“Using FFP money to take them on trips is hiding the fact that they are, in effect, getting tax-free perks because if they had been paid for this alleged pro bono work, they would have had to pay tax, but this way, it is tax-free and therefore avoiding tax. Yet, the board and trustees appear to turn a blind eye to this wrongdoing.”

The seriousness of these allegations is underscored by a letter issued to the Charity Commission in October 2022. The letter pointed to concerns encompassing “fraud by false representation and misuse of funds.” The Commission identified that it was a ‘civil regulator, and so cannot consider allegations of a criminal nature; these should be referred to the relevant police force. In conclusion, the Charities Commission were assured by the Trustees of FFP that they found some areas of improvement that were needed but ultimately concluded there was “no misuse of funds.”

Nevertheless, Hatteea and sponsors remain unconvinced. Despite gathering substantial funds, the absence of concrete outcomes and the withdrawal of sponsors raise pertinent questions. Is FFP providing false hope to disadvantaged youth, exacerbating their plight? The glaring absence of transparent results has led to sponsors questioning their association with FFP.

An sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous initially committed to a £50k sponsorship of Kashif Siddiqi’s Football for Peace initiative, withdrew their support. Their claim that only a portion of their sponsorship was dedicated to the intended cause prompted them to sever ties. Faced with Siddiqi’s unsatisfactory response, the sponsor is considering legal action.

As accolades and celebrity endorsements adorn FFP’s profile, the chasm between potential and actual impact becomes evident. If FFP wishes to transcend its perception as a mere fundraising vehicle, it must substantiate its claims with verifiable results. The hope remains that Kashif Siddiqi will step forward to address these concerns and safeguard FFP’s reputation. The invitation was extended to him, but silence prevails as this article takes form.