By Umaid Wasim – DAWN
KARACHI: It’s perhaps fitting that two countries sharing the same origins of football collaborate albeit one being continental powerhouse and the other relative minnows.
A delegation of the Korean Football Association (KFA) led by their president Chung Mong-Gyu is set to visit Pakistan on May 10 where it will meet the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) and advise them on how to boost the game in the country, well-placed sources told Dawn on Wednesday.
“It is almost done and they will be arriving here to advise the PFF on how to help the game grow in Pakistan,” the source said.
PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi, however, was rather more discreet on the matter. “We’ve had talks with them but nothing is confirmed as yet,” he said.
The arrival of the KFA delegation is another move by PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat to seek expert advice for the growth of the game in the country. “We’re seeking advice from Asia’s top footballing countries on how to improve the game here,” Faisal told Dawn recently. “These are countries which have worked hard on developing a football culture and we want to do the same here.”
Football in Korea is thought to be introduced by British sailors at the port of Incheon in 1882. Incheon is the host city for this year’s Asian Games where the Pakistan football team will be taking part.
The game came to Pakistan — and the sub-continent — also through the British in the mid-19th century as a morale-raising exercise for British troops during the British Raj and its beauty captivated the locals.
The Koreans, though, got on the ball way before Pakistan had even thought about it as cricket took centre-stage here. They became the first independent Asian nation to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 1954 and have qualified for eight successive World Cups since 1986.
Pakistan have never qualified and through their ambitious ‘Vision 2022’ plan, the PFF hope to raise a team capable of qualifying for the event which will be held in Qatar.
The Korean help, though, may come handy. South Korea’s K-League, founded in 1983, was the first professional football league in Asia. The PFF, over the years, has been trying to give the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) a professional outlook.
That, for former Pakistan head-coach Tariq Lutfi, is the first step towards realising ‘Vision 2022’.
“The league needs to be professional, more competitive and stronger so that the players that emerge from it can cope at the international level,” Lutfi, whose Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) side are the current PPFL champions, told Dawn recently.
Current Pakistan coach Mohammad Al Shamlan of Bahrain also believes on the same lines.
“The league needs to improve by a long way,” said Shamlan while speaking to Dawn during the final stages of last season’s PPFL in February. “The standard of the league is very low at present and for the national team to improve, work needs to be done on that.”
Although the K-League is no longer the continent’s top league, the Korean experience which has seen them become the continent’s biggest exporters of players could help Pakistan.
Pakistan, and the PFF, can hope.