By our Islamabad Correspondent Shahrukh Sohail
Nearly 3000 thousand roaring fans, cheering their team on. Chants and cries resonate in the stadium. A bicycle kick similar to the legendry Pele’s brings even the most stubborn of fans off their seats. No, this is not a League match somewhere in England; this is a World Cup Qualifier in a city called Lahore, who is more famous for its food than its football.
The once neglected game is definitely the largest growing one in the country now. But unbelievably the Pakistan Football Federation has played a little or no hand in the upbringing one of the country’s orphan sports. Football is on the rise in the Islamic Republic, nearly every city boasts a minimum of nearly 500 teams, with the bigger ones crossing very easily crossing the 1000 mark but sadly the National Team lies in tatters, defeated and disappointed.
But despite its now cult status, the Pakistan National Football Team has never reached its undoubted potential. The abysmal performance against Bangladesh can be the catalyst in the development of the beautiful game in the country but this is not India or Nepal, where we will see immediate sackings and appointments, here you will witness the coaches and staff getting reappointed, even after receiving a 3-0 mauling at the hands of a lowly team like Bangladesh.
Muhammad Essa, one of the most talented and well known players to grace the Pakistani colours, recently blamed the influx of foreign players for the poor displays. But anyone who saw the match in Lahore can easily identify Adnan Ahmed and Atif Bashir as the sole reason why Pakistan did not succumb to a defeat. Atif wore his heart on his sleeve and was relentless in his efforts to somehow gain a result; along the same lines was Arif Mehmood who must be credited for his tireless runs in spite of the poor quality of long balls he received.
Adnan Ahmed must also be acknowledged, as his silky skills and shooting ability were the only reason that the Green Shirts even managed a shot on the goal!
A head coach like Tariq Lutfi who picks a player like Kaleemullah, who cannot dribble, shoot and has nothing even close to a football brain, ahead of a foreign based player like Ahmed Akbar Khan is NOT a Coach by any standards and should be banned from football for life!
The so called ‘Pakistan’s most qualified coach’ also waived away the selection of Yousuf Butt, who is top-quality committed professional plying his trade in the Danish 2nd division. Yousuf should have been Pakistan’s number one choice to defend the goal but Lutfi favoured the advance aged Jaffar Khan who cost the team two goals in Dhaka.
Although nobody would really mind Jaffar Khan being the skipper, but appointing a 19-year-old Faisal Iqbal as the Vice-Captain and ignoring the likes of Samar Ishaq, Arif Mehmood and Atif Bashir is crystal clear favouritism. Similarly dropping Rizwan Asif, who is not only talented and skilled but plays with dedication and energy, is cardinal sin for which Lutfi should be sacked and banned from football.
The two legged affair was one of the most hotly anticipated matches in the messy history of Pakistani Football, fanatics from Islamabad, Karachi and even rural areas flocked to the National stadium to catch a glimpse of the team, they cherish so much.
But Lutfi’s antics have left even the most non-caring fans disappointed. And if he remains on as the coach, Pakistan will have endure it’s status as a comical farce of Asian football for many years to come.