By Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) on Friday hailed their achievements at Thursday’s AFC Congress in the Bahrain capital of Manama.
PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat pulling out of the race to become AFC vice-president in favour of his Indian counterpart Praful Patel saw Pakistan bestowed with several blessings by their fellow South Asian nations.
The Maldives have offered them to take part in a four-nation series there in July with Bangladesh playing a three-game series in September.
Also, there is a deal which will see Pakistan players be part of the lucrative Indian Super League (ISL) next season while there is also an agreement with India for a bilateral series next year.
“All these and more developments will augur very well for football in Pakistan,” said a PFF news release on Friday.
Pakistan is already without competitive football for the next four years after crashing out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in the first round last month.
Their 1-3 aggregate loss to Yemen saw Pakistan go out of the reckoning for FIFA’s showpiece tournament in Russia as well as the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 with the qualifiers for the World Cup merging qualification for the UAE tournament in the next round.
And with the likes of Bangladesh, India and the Maldives in the fray for the World Cup qualifiers, it is Pakistan which is left searching for games during the international breaks over the next four years.
At least their South Asian rivals are helping but for a team which is now ranked behind once world’s worst ranked Bhutan in the FIFA rankings, the next four years seem quite bleak for the Pakistan football team.
Maybe head coach Mohammed Shamlan can offer some joy by steering the team through the AFC U-23 Championships next year with a good performance in their qualifiers later this month.
But National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) head coach Nasir Ismail believes Pakistan football is suffering because the PFF has failed to invest properly in coaches during Hayat’s 12-year-reign as president.
Hayat’s presidency is up for election this year. He faces a challenge from a former ally in Zahir Ali Shah in the June 30 polls.
“Over the years, all service they’ve provided to the coaches is just nomination,” Nasir told Dawn on Friday. “Never have they bore the expenses of coaches to send them to complete their license courses yet they claim they’ve invested in that department.”
Nasir highlighted Bhutan’s recent achievements were a result of investing on coaches’ education.
Bhutan created a major surprise when they stunned Sri Lanka 3-1 on aggregate in the first round of World Cup qualifiers. They entered the qualifiers as the world’s bottom-ranked team at 209 and rose up to 163 by virtue of their two wins, nine places above Pakistan.
“Bhutan coach Chokey Nima, who masterminded that win over Sri Lanka, was with me when we completed our AFC A-license course [in Sri Lanka in 2008],” Nasir recalled.
“For that course, my department paid for me and I personally invested Rs100,000 on my own while the PFF’s job was to just send my nomination and I topped that course ahead of Nima.
“But unfortunately, instead of backing me, the PFF never expressed interest in sending me for an Pro-license course. Similar is the case with [former Pakistan coach] Shahzad Anwar who is bearing the expenses himself as he tries to complete his Pro-license course.
“The Bhutan Football Association, meanwhile, backed Nima for a Pro-license. Nima has become Bhutan’s technical director and even though he was installed for just the World Cup qualifiers [after their Japanese coach resigned], he took them through. That’s how coaches are backed. Look where Bhutan is now and where Pakistan is.”
At least the PFF are now discussing with Bhutan, among others, various initiatives in Pakistan.
“The PFF officials met Patel also the Presidents of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Qatar, Palestine, Bhutan, Nepal, Oman, South Korea, Kuwait and discussed the various initiatives for the betterment of the game in Pakistan,” stated the PFF news release.
The state of Pakistan football now, after exiting the World Cup qualifiers, is a sorry one. It’s lagging so far behind that the PFF has to now look for cooperation with its South Asian counterparts for initiatives.
But Nasir reckons the PFF should get their house in order, insisting firstly they need to stop violating AFC rules when appointing people during coaching courses.
The first A-license course in the country, featuring 21 coaches, began from Friday and Nasir alleged that assistant instructor Najeebullah Najmi’s appointment is wrong.
“He cannot be an assistant coaching instructor for an A-license coach since rules are that one has to have conducted two B-license courses,” he alleged.
“Najmi hasn’t done that and furthermore he’s not cleared the theory exam of his A-license course. Those making these appointments need to show some sincerity.
“Pakistan football has been suffering because of no investment on coaches and it will continue to suffer if they keep doing this.”