By Shazia Hasan [Dawn.com]
KARACHI: Lack of practice, last-minute change of venues, defensive play, rain, a soggy pitch and a make-shift coach can all serve as good excuses for the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for the national team’s 3-0 loss to Bangladesh in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday.
Like good politicians, the PFF can also say that this was just the first match of the two-legged event and Pakistan is bound to bounce back in the second tie, to be played at home at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore on Sunday.
But the PFF, for the time being, has decided to remain mum about the causes of defeat while only announcing that they do not intend to replace the team coach after the loss.
“We will stick with Tariq Lutfi unless we have the option of getting a foreign coach,” said PFF Secretary General Col Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi, while speaking to Dawn.
Whereas Pakistan’s most qualified coach Tariq Lutfi has been adopting a defensive strategy in one match after another and should now be sent home due to this persistent habit of his, he too in turn can point back a finger at the federation for their failure to lineup enough practice matches for the national team prior to the important qualifiers.
All the tours planned for the team couldn’t materialise as several countries declined due to their full schedules in reply to PFF’s proposals.
“What can we do?” Lodhi wondered aloud. “No team wants to tour Pakistan and when we want to visit some country, they say they are busy.”
But the fact is that the PFF, headed by a thorough politician Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, is better at playing politics than booking tours for its talented team.
While the PFF president may win all kinds of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA elections to get into all kinds committees, the laxity on his federation’s part foils all attempts of arranging good tours for the team. They only wake up a month or two ahead of a big event, which is of no use as tours are booked even years in advance.
As for the issue of finding a competent coach for the team, they are weighing qualifications rather than strategy. Perhaps that is why Pakistan has only won five games since the current PFF management took over in 2007.
They ignored so many offers from good foreign coaches who were willing to take on the challenge of training the side including Graham Roberts of England and Wolfgang Jerat of Germany, both of whom even came down to Pakistan but left without signing any deal.
The reason given by the PFF for not hiring them is lack of funds for which they blame the Pakistan Sports Board and the government. But they are still without a good foreign coach who is the need of the hour, despite Faisal Saleh Hayat being a part of the government now.
Sadly, in the past when the PFF did manage to get hold of a good coach, they antagonized him by quickly laying the blame on for the lost matches, as was done with George Kottan of Austria.
Yes, the PFF is only good at one thing, fulfilling AFC and FIFA’s requirements on paper to keep receiving the funds from them.
Meanwhile, the green jerseys, one of the 16 lowest-ranked teams playing the current home and away qualifiers, is now on the verge of crashing out in the first round itself after already losing two other important qualifying rounds this year such as the 2012 Olympic qualifying matches that they lost to Malaysia and the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers which they lost to India.
Their only chance to make it to the second round is to score a close-to-impossible 4-0 victory in the second leg.
No one here is interested in victories, really. And no one here will raise their voice against the workings of this incompetent federation as football in Pakistan is yet to achieve the kind of glory that came our way in cricket and hockey.
So while the National Assembly and Senate standing committees on sports and the various sports ministers continue to demand answers from national cricket and hockey managements for their poor performances, no one really worries about football despite the untapped talent for the world famous game available in the country.