by Shazia Hasan
KARACHI: Former Pakistan national football team captain Mohammad Essa has said that he may reconsider his decision to retire from international football if the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is willing to pay heed to his earlier demands.
Speaking to Dawn on Wednesday, the footballer from Chaman while reacting to Austrain coach George Kottan’s disinterest in continuing with Pakistan after a miserable performance in the South Asian Games, said that he had foreseen what a “disaster” Kottan was just a month after he signed the year-long contact with the PFF.
“I had gone to see Secretary General Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi directly from the airport to inform him that the new coach was no good immediately after our return from the Prime Minister Cup in Nepal, way back in March 2009.
“But Lodhi Sahab then had said that the man had just been appointed chief coach and deserved to be given some time to settle down. He had also signed a year-long contact with the PFF and from what I could understand, we were stuck with him for the entire year,” he explained.
“Coach Kottan has a knack for rubbing players the wrong way. He didn’t let me as well as several other key players play in our usual positions,” the 26-year-old forward recalled.
“I am a striker but I don’t know what he was thinking when he made me a midfielder. It is only now that everyone says that Essa was right in the beginning about the coach’s poor judgment,” Essa fumed.
Frustrated by the coach’s stubbornness over not letting them play their natural game Essa along with the national football team’s vice captain Jafar Khan announced their retirements from international soccer during the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) championship in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last month where Pakistan was ousted from the first round alone.
About his future plans now that the coach was leaving, Essa said: “I might reconsider my decision but for that the PFF too needs to make some strides in my direction. I haven’t yet heard from them.”
He added: “I want the players that Salman Sharida had picked and worked so hard on for the national team to be recalled. They were amazing players but Coach Kottan did away with so many of them one after the other. Also we need a good coach for the side. I had the chance of speaking to Salman Sharida a few weeks back and he hinted that he may want to come back here to coach us again. If not that, then the only local option will have to be Akhtar Mohiuddin as I personally feel that the younger lot, like Nasir Ismail, still need more experience and tact to handle the national side.”
He concluded: “Well, this is my stand. If the federation is willing to listen to me, I am always available to play for my country.” Meanwhile, PFF Secretary Col Lodhi had a similar view about Coach Kottan. “He repeated what he did with Essa and Jafar in the SA Games when he made the team’s captain Arif Mehmood sit out for most part of the first match against Sri Lanka. How can he treat the team captain of all the people like this? We are very disappointed by his lack of judgment and if he says that he doesn’t want to coach the side anymore I say good riddance!”
About the PFF’s next move, he said: “Well, we have constituted a probe committee to look into the debacle. Let’s see what it has to say when it meets on Feb 9.”
About looking for a new foreign coach for the national side, he said: “It would be premature to say anything right now. But we still have several options in the form of those resumes sent to us during our search for a coach around the same time last year.”