by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: The newly-appointed Director Technical of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Shehzad Anwar on Monday said that he had a tough challenge ahead but would try his best to live up to the expectations.
“Yes, my new job is really tough and more challenging, but I will strive to live up to the billing of the PFF president and secretary who reposed confidence in me,” he told ‘The News’ in an interview from his hometown Sargodha on Monday.
Shehzad, a former Pakistan coach, is the only pro-licence coach of the country. He has remained a member of the Sao Paulo Coaches Association for a couple of years. He said that he had a few areas to work in as Director Technical. “I will have to work on coaches’ education, both national men and women teams building and grassroots and youth development,” Shehzad said.
The PFF executive committee the other day approved Shehzad’s appointment as Director Technical. The PFF has also appointed Pakistan’s assistant coach Sajjad Mehmood as Director Competitions. Before the football conflict emerged in April 2015 that wasted Pakistan’s three crucial years, former Pakistan coach Mohammed Shamlan of Bahrain had been serving both as Director Technical of PFF and head coach of Pakistan.
When Shehzad was asked if the PFF also needed his services as a coach what he would do, he said whatever responsibility he was given he would do his best. Asked about his immediate targets, he mentioned selection for the Asian Games and SAFF Cup. “Pakistan will field its under-23 team in the Asian Games and senior team in the SAFF Cup to be held later this summer. Our players have not had any standard training and matches during the last three years as no Premier League was held.
“So we will pick players for the twin assignments from the National Challenge Cup and through open trials which we plan to conduct at the most important areas,” Shehzad revealed. Asian Games, in which competing nations may field their under-23 teams with only four senior players, will be held in Indonesia from August 18 to September 2.
The SAFF Championship will be staged in Bangladesh from September 4 to 15. Shehzad said that a coaches’ panel would be constituted which would witness the matches of the National Challenge Cup which is expected to begin at Karachi from April 20.
He was quick to add that Pakistan would direly need international exposure and a lengthy camp for the two assignments. “Even our star players are not in shape. Tough work will be needed to bring them in shape and to train properly the fresh stuff,” he said.
He added that the PFF was to hire the services of a foreign coach. “The PFF is in contact with Bahrain for a coach and has also signed an agreement with China which can help Pakistan get some players for its Premier League,” Shehzad said.
He said they would also try to know the status of the foreign-based players — those who had grown up playing in Pakistan and were now playing abroad as well as those who had grown up playing in other countries.
Pakistan’s star striker Kaleemullah is playing in Turkey, Saddam Hussain is in Cyprus and goalkeeper Saqib Hanif is set to depart for the Maldives to play in a league there. Denmark-based Hassan Bashir, Yousuf Butt and Mohammad Ali are some of the players whose services could be taken, especially for the SAFF Championship.
Shehzad said that he would also work on the women’s team as Pakistan would feature in Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-16 and Under-19 Championships in September-October. He said that youth leagues were also among the plans. “Youth leagues and women leagues will also be initiated. A club licensing process is also going to be initiated,” Shehzad said.
Just days after Lahore High Court restored PFF, the world football governing body (FIFA) lifted the suspension it had imposed on Pakistan last October. That enabled PFF to regain control of its secretariat in Lahore and initiate football activities which had remained halted since April 2015.