by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Goalkeeping is a very important area especially in Pakistan football as the elite team is normally seen struggling when it plays against a nation outside South Asia. The country has been constantly producing some good goalkeepers but they fail to play a sheet-anchor role in Pakistan’s international achievements because they are not properly groomed.
And Pakistan’s highly experienced goalkeeping coach Aslam Khan also agrees to that. “Of course our land is very fertile as it has been persistently producing some good goalkeepers over the years. But the issue is that we don’t focus on their grooming,” Aslam told ‘The News’ in an interview.
Aslam is a UEFA License A coach, having done the course from Germany. He has also attended goalkeeping seminars in Belgium and Italy and has good knowledge of the area.
Aslam, having associated with the Pakistan team for the last one decade off and on, currently serves as goalkeeping coach of Pakistan’s most successful football club Khan Research Laboratories (KRL).
He is also the teacher of Pakistan’s current goalkeeping coach and former Pakistan captain Jaffar Khan. Aslam said there should be regular special camps for goalkeepers.
“For the last one decade or so I have not seen any special camp for goalkeepers. In my opinion it is very important. In future Pakistan football authorities must focus on this matter. Goalkeeping is highly important area and gloveman need to be properly looked after in every respect,” said Aslam, also a former PIA player.
“You know mostly in international circuit and especially when we play against strong sides like Iraq, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan we are always under attack and in that case if you have strong keeper with superb reflexes and good height he can play a key role for you,” he said.
Aslam said he would suggest to the future authorities of Pakistan’s football that the country’s top crop should be sent to Europe for training. “This is very important. You know Europe is very strong and our keepers can learn from them,” he said.
He appreciated Pakistan’s mainstream goalkeepers including Saqib Hanif, Denmark-based Yousuf Butt and Ihsanullah. “Ihsanullah is good enough. Saqib has matured a lot and has emerged as a strong keeper. Foreign leagues have polished him a lot. As far as Danish Yousuf is concerned he trains at the best football environment and is good,” Aslam said.
However, he was quick to add that Tanvir Mumtaz, who is recovering from injury and young Nasrullah are fast improving and are Pakistan’s future.
Nasrullah, just 21, belongs to Balochistan and Tanvir, who belongs to Faisalabad, is also young, having represented Pakistan at the under-16 and under-19 level. They both belong to KRL.
“We have another goalkeeper Usman, who is just 16-year old. He is over six feet tall and is very agile. He belongs to Malakand and KRL is hiring him. If we properly groom him he can serve Pakistan in the future,” Aslam said.
He said goalkeepers should have strong field-play ability as they contribute in attack-building and their reflexes should be good. “It’s a very difficult area. If a goalie does not train for three days his reflexes become slow,” Aslam said.
He added that five-year break has damaged Pakistan football. “There is an abundance of talent in Pakistan but you know there is no league, no age-group events at the district and provincial level so no goalkeepers are coming up. Once football resumes properly, things will improve,” Aslam said.
He said if goalkeeping area is to improve every department and top clubs will have to hire the services of a goalkeeping coach. “No department has specialised goalkeeping coach and this is the major flaw in our football. We should prepare more goalkeeping coaches by sending them abroad for courses. Those already qualified should be kept sending for further courses. Even a foreign goalkeeping coach can be invited to train Pakistan’s keepers after every six months. By doing so local coaches can also work with him and learn,” Aslam said. He also appreciated his department KRL’s work on footballers.