The year has been surprisingly good for Pakistani athletes – the cricket team whitewashed England, won the Asia Cup, got to the semi-final of the World Twenty20. On the astro-turf, a bronze was won in the Champions Trophy while Muhammad Asif emerged as the unlikeliest of world amateur snooker champion.
However, the year brings to light the sorry state of football in the country. The performance in international and club events, Pakistan ’s have been consistently dismal throughout the year.
In July, Pakistan finished rock-bottom in the group stage of the AFC under-22 Asian Cup qualification in Saudi Arabia – managing one point from five matches and failing to get on the scoresheets even once. A similar story was witnessed with the national U23 side which failed to live up to expectations in the four-nation Mahinda Rajapaksa International Football tournament this month. In a friendly against Singapore, the national side was thrashed 4-0.
The female team failed to fare any better and were thrashed 8-0 by Nepal in the opening match of the 2nd SAFF Women Football Championship before a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Afghanistan sealed their exit.
Last year’s Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) champions KRL qualified for the final of the AFC President’s Cup 2012 without scoring a single goal but were defeated 3-1 in the final by holders Taiwan Power Company FC to conclude their Group B campaign.
After the success of the U16s in the SAFF Championship last year, all hopes were pinned on young talent and the PFF had pledged to give maximum opportunities to youngsters. But the U23 and U23 sides, the PFF opted for tried-and-tested players past their peak or ex-pats having limited experience of playing with the Pakistan junior players.
Hopes were also pinned on coach Zavisa Milosavljevic who took charge after Pakistan’s failure in the SAFF Championship a year ago. He failed miserably, taking Pakistan to lowly-rated regional events where the team failed to give desired results. He also said that his preference lay with foreign-based players instead of locally-groomed talent. This served a huge blow to those budding stars trying their hardest in the PPFL. The PFF shut him up but his statements clearly showed his dissatisfaction with Pakistani footballers, its domestic league and the poor infrastructure.
By the looks of things, he’s spot on. The league is just a dormant exercise which cannot create professionalism, competitiveness, and polished footballers. Across the country, one will need to try extremely hard to find a ground of international standard and adequate facilities for training and academies have never featured in the federation’s priority list.
With these conditions, if the federation claims that Pakistan football will progress in 2013, they are just living in a fool’s paradise.
by M Wasim
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2012.