By Uzair Alvi, Guest Writer, Islamabad
As a great football fan I have been following Pakistan National Team since I was a kid. Few weeks back I checked the latest rankings and was shocked to see that Pakistan has dropped to 182nd position in FIFA rankings. The question arose in my mind, “Why we are still unable to make a remarkable progress in Football?”, “Why Pakistan is this much behind than other neighbor countries such as Afghanistan and India?”
I started to follow domestic football to find my answers. As I watched them play more and more, the answer of the questions became crystal clear to me. I noticed that Pakistan Football Federation is least concerned with domestic football. The level they have maintained in the league is questionable and simply not up to the mark.
The pitch used in the 2014/15 Pakistan Premier League in Islamabad was not in the best of the condition. It was found hard and rough, while big patches could be seen clearly on the field which left players with bruised knees and other niggling injuries.
One of the Pakistan Air Force FC official said, “We were allotted the main Jinnah Stadium for the PPL matches but now the matches are taking place in Outer Football Ground of Sports Complex. We are paying a hefty amount of Rs. 5000 per match for the maintenance. Why they are not maintaining it then? They don’t water the ground well. The pitch is bumpy and totally not up to the mark.”
“Why we are not allowed to play in our own ground in E-9 Islamabad which is being maintained properly on regular basis?” He added.
The second thing which I noticed was the footballs which were being used for the matches. These were old and already used by the teams in their practice, so the air pressure wasn’t checked properly and the footballs were far from ideal.
The score board which was displayed in the stadium was downtrodden and make-shift. In many of the matches, the scoreboard was not displayed at all or if displayed, was not updated. The time clock was also not available during all the matches. The teams were without medical doctors. Mostly, ambulance and stretchers meant for immediate treatment for the injured players were also unavailable throughout the matches.
The goals posts and nets used in the stadium were also in poor conditions. Goal posts were with full of rust and were not painted, while the nets had big holes in them. Moreover, there wasn’t any professionalism of any sort as the kits worn by the match referees were not same and The bench used by the officials and team was hardly maintained.
KRL and Army played their matches in the main Jinnah Stadium which had a good and well maintained pitch. But in those matches yet again the scoreboard and clock were missing. Technical area was also not defined at all and match was allowed to carry on by the match commissioner without any hassle. I personally asked Match Commissioner about the technical area which was not defined and he didn’t answer my question and ignored me as he was least concerned about it.
When I checked the official website (www.pff.com.pk) of Pakistan Football Federation, it clearly defines all the ground preparation guidelines and Pakistan Premier League rules which were made mandatory to be followed during the PPL matches. So, only on paper, PPL was running in the best as it could be but in reality it was in deep utter crisis. Every law of FIFA they follow in the PPL is just for the sake of fulfillment of law while nothing was being done to improve or professionalize the league.
This is the condition of the highest quality football league of the country. With this non-professionalism and non-serious behavior of the officials, it looks impossible to me that a country like Pakistan can ever make remarkable progress in football.
The PFF gets a huge grant from FIFA every year yet they have failed to maintain the level of the PPL. VISION-2022, for which PFF is striving for, itself is visionless. No wonder why Pakistan football is in such a crisis. For any country, the domestic structure is the only way to improve the level of football as seen by the outstanding standards of leagues in Europe, America and now even in India with the Indian Super League.
The non-serious and non-professional staff of the PFF should be immediately sorted out. Proper achievable targets should be set and PFF should strive for it with full zeal. Once the federation gets serious about these major issues, the time is not far when Pakistan Football Team would become a powerhouse of the region.