By Alam Zeb Safi
Former Bahraini defender Mohammad Shamlan ultimately quit as Pakistan football team coach last week after his two-year contract expired.
He has now signed a one-year deal with Bahrain’s Riffa Sports Club. When two years ago Shamlan replaced Serbian Zavisa Milosavljevic as Pakistan’s coach he was very confident that he would easily deal with the local politics because he already knew the football environment in Pakistan as he had worked as an assistant with former Pakistan’s coach Salman Ahmed Sharida in 2005-06. And Shamlan exactly did that.
He was rarely influenced by Pakistan Football Federation (PFF). The PFF top brass also knew the psychology of the mighty man and they always tried to keep him happy because he was getting his salary not from the PFF but from Bahrain.
Mostly, he kept himself away from media. However, his relations with a few journalists were very strong and he always shared with them so many things off the record.
Once he was not happy with the PFF and it was expected that he would quit. However, some positive development prevented the situation from further deterioration.
As a coach he, like the other foreign coaches, failed to produce any solid result but his overall performance was not bad. He is a shrewd coach and aggressive in nature. Under his coaching Pakistan won the two-match series against India in Bangalore in 2014 and beat Afghanistan in a one-off friendly at Lahore.
He not only reduced the losing margin of his team but under his command one could see a technically improved Pakistan team.
His relations with his players were very strong. He was always seen fighting for his players and the players respected him a lot for that.
After Pakistan beat Kyrgyzstan 3-1 in their last outing of the AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers in Al-Ain last May, Shamlan told his players that it was his last match as Pakistan’s coach.
It was because of his solid relations with the players and his coaches that he remained indecisive about quitting in the last few months.
During the Premier League when he saw Pakistan’s striker Mansoor Khan with his burnt leg here at the KMC stadium he summoned the PAF’s manager and told him in furious mood why he did not provide his player medical treatment. He told someone to take Mansoor to hospital for immediate treatment.
On so many other occasions he was seen fighting for his players.
He wanted Pakistan’s league to be put on professional footings. Once during a long discussion he told me that Pakistan is brimming with talent but there is a need to modify the system and make it more professional. “The players need money, coaches need money; without giving the players and the coaches incentives you cannot expect any results,” Shamlan told me a year ago.
Initially, he was not in favour of foreign-based players but ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers he thought that it was important to give them chance. He was very impressed by foreign-based players, particularly by Denmark-based striker Hassan Bashir and former Fulham defender Zeeshan Rehman.
In his farewell interview with ‘The News’ he said that both Hasan and Zesh were fine players and he would like to see them play in the Gulf.
He was also very happy for striker Kaleemullah who is playing in North America these days.
He managed for defender Mohammad Ahmed a one-year deal with Bahrain’s Isa Town FC and now he has managed a one-year deal with the same club for midfielder Saddam Hussain.
In a few days, Saddam will formally sign the contract.
Shamlan always encouraged his players and he was seen awarding cash prizes from his own pocket to the boys who performed well in any international match.
As PFF Director Technical, Shamlan’s contribution was amazing. When he came to Pakistan two years ago there were only two License A coaches but now their number is 20. He also sent five goalkeeping coaches to Bahrain for a Licence B course. In his last interview he told ‘The News’ that he would continue to serve Pakistan’s players and coaches. He said he spent good time in Pakistan, it was like his home and he would keep coming to Pakistan.
Shamlan is the only foreign coach who quit the job. He was not deserted like other foreign coaches.
It was because of his strong stance to run his team independently. He was an informal individual. Once he told me that he could make a lot of wealth by doing business but “I love football and am happy in company of footballers and will serve the game for the rest of my life”.
When I asked him to comment on Pakistan’s current football situation and the war between the two factions of PFF, he said: “I know what is happening. It disturbs me. But I cannot comment on it as I am a coach and will talk to you only about my team and technical things.”
Under Shamlan, Pakistan ended third in the three-team Philippines Peace Cup, beating Chinese Taipei 1-0 on October 13, 2013, before losing to hosts Philippines 1-3 on October 15.
Pakistan lost to Lebanon 3-1 in Beirut in February 2014. Shamlan was stopped by Israel in Jordon, so he could not coach his side that featured in the Al-Nakba International Football tournament in Palestine in May 2014.
Pakistan faced a 4-0 drubbing against Indonesia in a friendly in June 2014 in Indonesia.
In August 2014 Pakistan beat India 2-0 after losing to the hosts 1-0 in their opener in Bangalore to clinch the two-match series on better goal-average.
In 2014 Incheon Asian Games Pakistan lost to North Korea 2-0 and strong China 1-0 in their Group F games in September.
In February 2015 Pakistan beat Afghanistan 2-1 in Lahore. In 2018 World Cup qualifiers Pakistan lost to Yemen 3-1 in Doha on March 12 before holding the same side to a goalless draw in the second leg.
In 2016 AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers Group B in Al-Ain in March 2015, Pakistan lost to Jordon 5-0 and Kuwait 2-0 before beating Kyrgyzstan 3-1 in their last outing to finish third in the four-team group after Turkmenistan pulled out of the event.