Alam Zeb Safi [The News]
KARACHI: Pakistan’s football chiefs on Sunday reiterated their commitment that they will continue to stick to the juniors in future as well which means that the international careers of those home-based footballers who are above 23 years of age are almost over.
“We will stick to our policy and will not pick those players for the coming events who are above 23 years of age,” Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmad Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’.
“The juniors are our future and we want to groom them and build a competitive team,” Lodhi said.
However, he made it clear that the same policy will not be applied when it comes to foreign-based players.
“This policy will not be applied to foreign-based players because we want to bring our foreign-based community closer,” he said.
Pakistan’s former English consultant Graham Roberts had also advised the PFF that it would not give them any benefit if they continue to stick to the senior players, he recalled.
“Graham Roberts had told us that we should focus on juniors, who will help form a better team for the future,” Lodhi said.
The PFF, aiming to see its team qualify for the 2022 World Cup, had surprisingly axed the country’s experienced goalie Jaffar Khan and defender Samar Ishaq for Pakistan’s two-match series against India in England which unfortunately was called off after the organisers failed to get the required sponsorship.
Both Jaffar and Samar were included in the probables’ list for England series by national coach Tariq Lutfi but were dropped by the PFF.
Jaffar had led Pakistan in the World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh. But on the contrary the PFF had picked foreign-based seniors including Adnan Ahmad, Atif Bashir, Shabbir Khan, Hassan Bashir and Mohammad Ali for the tour.
The PFF stance to depend purely on Under-23 lads will deprive dozens of home-based international players from continuing their national duty.
However, some experts don’t altogether place their thumbs up for the PFF red-card for the home-based senior players.
“There should not be such hard and fast rules and those seniors who are outstanding should be given chance to serve the country,” Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’.
Former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa, who has retired from international football as a mark of protest, also opposed the PFF policy.
“It’s strange that a senior player who can deliver could be ignored for ever,” Essa told this correspondent from Chaman.
“A player who attains an age of 25 or 27 is forced to retire in Pakistan. There is no sound policy here to run and build a team for the future,” he remarked.
“Most of the players in the current Indian team have played with us at Under-19, Under-20, Under-23 and at the senior level but they still are part of their team while no player of the then Pakistan squad which played against India at those levels is the part of the current national team. India, with their mature squad, also played in the Asian Cup, but you see where we stand,” he said.
“Here the bright juniors are put directly in the national team without grooming them properly at the lower level which ultimately destroys their careers,” stressed the 27-year-old.
Pakistan’s next assignment is the SAFF Championship which will be hosted by India in Orissa in December.