By Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: The football talent in Lyari which was on display during the 17-day long PFF-KESC Lyari Football League has impressed everyone — particularly the top brass of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
All the matches, particularly the final on Monday, turned out to be an excellent showpiece with Under-14 players exhibiting great maturity and fine skills at the Peoples Sports Complex.
An impressive display by players of both finalists Lyari Town and Singolane depicted exactly why the lot in Lyari can be compared with any of the best young lots in the world.
And it is pathetic that Pakistan is well behind the rest of the nations in the world’s most thrilling sport because there has been little focus towards establishing a sound football culture and a productive system for the proper nourishment of the available talent in the country.
The way the kids of the polluted and economically retarded belt of the provincial metropolis played in the tournament has showed the authorities that the required talent is available if Pakistan wants to see its team in the 2022 World Cup.
PFF secretary Col Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi, who took everyone by surprise with his startling statement during the FIFA World Cup last year that Pakistan will feature in the 2022 World Cup, was impressed with what he saw in the final.
“The talent is in front of us but we need money and only through the government assistance we would be able to bring an improvement in our footballing standard,” Lodhi told ‘The News’ during the final here on Monday.
“We have to go a long way. We need good grounds and hefty funds for the cause to be fulfilled.
“We already know that Lyari is full of talent and that is why we started the youth programme from here.
“We plan to establish around seven academies across the country in the next couple of years and I am hopeful that we would be able to reach our goal,” Lodhi said.
Meanwhile, former Pakistan striker Ali Nawaz Baloch said that the talent in Lyari is a clear indication that Pakistan has the required talent but there is need for solid planning.
“You will not find such a talent in this age-group even in strong football nations. These boys have the skills but need to be polished further through a specific system,” Ali Nawaz said.
“For that purpose, Pakistan would need a better foreign coach for a sufficient tenure to train these youngsters. We need constant focus on youth development if we want to enhance the standard of football in the country,” Ali Nawaz, who also played professional football in the UAE, said.
The Technical Study Group (TSG) of the PFF have picked 70 players from the pool of 350 which took part in the youth competitions. Of the 70, 50 would be shortlisted and then the best of them would be sent to the Pakistan Under-14 team camp for the AFC Under-14 Festival of Football to be held in Iran later this year