Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Former Pakistan football captain Mohammad Essa on Monday said that Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) claim that the country would qualify for the 2022 World Cup was unrealistic.
“It may be a political statement but it is quite unrealistic,” Essa told ‘The News’ in an interview from his hometown Chaman.
The PFF has set a target which it calls ‘Vision 2022’ under which it would like to see Pakistan team form a niche in the top ten outfits of Asia which will help them qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Although PFF is way short of the target keeping in view the slow growth of the game in the country, its chief Faisal Saleh Hayat a few days ago in a detailed chat with this correspondent had claimed that they were on the right path to achieve their goal of ‘Vision 2022’.
But Essa does not see it happening.
“You know, our football system is defective and needs a major postmortem. So far we have not even won the SAFF Cup title and thinking about World Cup at this stage is quite immature,” said the influential play-maker.
He said in order to realize the dream of playing in the World Cup the PFF will have to make a long-term plan.
“Cameroon was once a poor footballing nation but they made a long-term plan and worked hard and you see they qualified for the World Cup. I would suggest to the PFF that they should set 2034 World Cup as their target and start working for that,” Essa said.
“Football has turned very competitive. In Pakistan teams are changed every year or after two years. And it would not work. You will not see even a single player, part of the current Pakistan team, who had played in the 2006 Doha Asian Games. We had lost to Japan 3-2 which was an excellent effort. But look, Japan is playing in the World Cup in Brazil while we cannot even think of that,” said Essa, who plays for K-Electric in the Premier League.
“No doubt, there is great talent in Pakistan and people also follow the sport but without giving facilities to the players, it is not possible to promote the sport.”
He said that players would need to play constantly in Europe.
“If we play here I don’t think we will make any progress. Our players will need to play constantly in Europe. The PFF will have to focus on marketing in order to generate revenue. Football should be promoted in those areas where crowd turn up for witnessing matches. Unfortunately, here those areas are neglected which can play a major part in the growth of football,” he pointed out.
He also advocated the idea of having a central contract for the top players.
In 2005, central contracts had been offered to the players with those in category A getting Rs7000 and those in B claiming Rs5000. But the system was discarded after one year.
About the current Pakistan team, Essa said: “It has some good young players and if they are given top training and exposure for several years, it would produce the desired results,” he said.
He suggested that the PFF should try to keep Pakistan’s Bahraini coach Mohammed Shamlan for five years.