By Mohammad Yaqoob
LAHORE, Jan 22: Half-hearted efforts by the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in finding a replacement for Pakistan’s former coach Salman Sharida has added further gloom to the future of football within the country.
Sharida, a gift to Pakistan from the Bahrain Football Federation, had left his assignment rather unceremoniously soon after the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, in December of 2006.
His association with the national team for almost a year helped Pakistan field a fighting side in the Asiad against teams from Japan, Korea and the Arab nations. The Asian Games had raised the country’s hopes for seeing more improvement in the sport in the coming years.
But then Sharida, who was here for a three-year term, got a better offer from back home and he left the rising Pakistan team in the doldrums without as much as informing the PFF.
The PFF, under the leadership of Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat is known to celebrate even their little achievements, but this time they failed to realise the gravity of the situation — the team needed another high-profile coach such as Sharida in order to maintain his good work but no one came.
And instead of focusing on the senior team, the PFF decided to give importance to its Under-23 outfit by appointing a local coach Rasheed Ahmed.
Glimpses of Sharida’s fine work were also seen in the Asia Cup preliminary qualifying round last year when players trained by the coach helped the Pakistan U-23 side in beating Singapore. Drawing against the Asian champions Iraq in the World Cup qualifiers’ away home tie in Syria (neutral venue) was another of last year’s key successes.
“In our attempt to find a replacement, we contacted Iran but then failed to get anyone due to our limited financial resources,” PFF secretary Col (retd) Ahmed Yar Lodhi told Dawn.
“A good coach demands a minimum of $10,000 per month and the one from Iran was asking for even more — $25,000 — which at the moment, PFF cannot afford,” the secretary said, while admitting to the fact that a qualified coach was important in raising a formidable Pakistan team.
When asked how the PFF hoped to achieve its target under the present situation, the secretary informed that the PFF was working at improving the skills of local coaches.
But even though the PFF does not have funds to hire international coaches, it raised its Lahore secretariat expenditures and is in the process of recruiting new staff there.
Ironically, not a single top official including its president Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, secretary Lodhi and technical director Pervez Saeed Mir (an athlete), are known to have played football at a notable level. Faisal had earlier fired two technical directors — Mujahidullah (an international footballer) and Farooq Mir — who as former players had a deep association with the game.
“Pervez Mir is also a sportsman and he is doing a fine job as he has chalked out a hectic activity programme,” he said.
“We successfully organised the AFC President Cup in Lahore, though our national champions Army failed to get any notable position in it,” the secretary added.