by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: With Pakistan seemingly moving towards international football isolation, the country’s Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira on Wednesday left with a heavy heart for his hometown Sao Paulo, not knowing what his fate would be as Pakistan coach.
He says that he is not concerned for himself but fears for the boys with whom he worked so hard. “I am very sad, not for myself but for the boys with whom I worked hard in the last few months,” Nogueira told ‘The News’ hours after returning from Qatar on Wednesday.
“I am going home and will be waiting for Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) call,” Nogueira said.“If football is halted it will be a big loss for Pakistan and for those actively involved in the sport. We have raised a good lot and I am worried about that,” Nogueira said.
“Look we had a good tour of Qatar where we tried our best to test all the players against different nations. It was an effort to form the best possible combination ahead of the Olympic Qualifiers, which are to be held in March next year,” the coach said.
The PFF hired the services of Nogueira and Brazilian trainer Jose Portella when Pakistan was restored by FIFA in spring this year. Both of them did a commendable job during the last few months.
Under Nogueira, Pakistan returned to international football after three years when they featured in the Asian Games in Indonesia last summer.Immediately after that Pakistan visited Dhaka where they finished third in the SAFF Championship. Pakistan had last ended third in the same event in 1997.
Under Nogueira, Pakistan also visited Bahrain for training before the Asiad. Pakistan toured Palestine last month where the Green-shirts lost to the hosts 2-1 in an international friendly on November 17, the FIFA day, at Al-Ram.
During the two-week Qatar tour, Pakistan played against Palestine, Qatar Army national team and Afghanistan Under-23 team.Pakistan lost to Palestine 2-0, Pakistan Under-23 went down to Qatar Army national team 3-1 and Pakistan Under-23 team held Afghanistan Under-23 to a 1-1 draw.
“We are on way to manufacturing a very good lot for the Olympic Qualifiers. Next month some more matches are planned against Singapore and another nation. I am happy that so far I have spent decent time in Pakistan and hopefully the things will not be that bad in the coming days,” he said.
Nogueira’s services have been hired for three years.
As Supreme Court has ordered the FIFA-recognised PFF to hand over the control of the federation to the newly-elected body within one week, it would not be possible for the FIFA-recognised body to keep working.
As FIFA would not recognise the new body which is led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, Pakistan would automatically go into international football isolation. Even if FIFA does not impose sanctions its recognised association would not be able to send teams abroad due to legal issues.
So Pakistan may miss next year’s Olympic Qualifiers and World Cup Qualifiers and the AFC age-group events. If that happens it will hit hard the players preparing for these major events.
The situation was similar in spring of 2015, when Pakistan returned from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after featuring in the AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers under Bahraini coach Mohammed Al-Shamlan as a result of controversial elections of Punjab Football Association (PFA).
The situation worsened so much that the PFF headquarters was occupied by a rival group. Shamlan had to go back. Pakistan stayed out of the international circuit for three years.
Last year FIFA imposed sanctions on Pakistan. However, early this year those sanctions were lifted when Lahore High Court (LHC) restored PFF. After returning from Qatar, Pakistan’s players joined their respective teams in the Premier League.