Pakistan football: a victim of muddled priorities

It is a commendable job on the Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) part that it is financing its team for the Asian Games in China next month after the Pakistan Olympic Association’s (POA) refusal to do so.

It also insinuates the fact that the PFF has enough money in their coffers or has the capability to generate funds at short notice despite their repeated claims of financial problems that led them to limit this year’s domestic events.

While sending its team to China but reluctance to invest in the domestic development of the game reveals nothing but a wrong set of priorities. Improving the game’s infrastructure, enlarging the canvas and raising the standard of the game is what the PFF should be after. The mentioned acts will develop football in the country while participation in the Asian Games – and grouped with Oman (92nd), Thailand (102nd), Maldives (143rd) – the 162nd-ranked Pakistan may show flashes of improvement but progress to the knock-out stage would be a miracle.

The PFF prioritises its activities to provide the national team with maximum – often fruitless – exposure at the international circuit. But at a time when the domestic season is on, the decision to pull the players from there, join a long training camp and then send them to a relatively low-profile event is a strange one.

Similarly, with the domestic league on, there is no use for a long camp. The players can just as easily be picked on the basis of their performance as a short camp of under a week is enough. The Asian Cup and the World Cup qualifiers are the more important events and even among the South-Asian nations, the SAFF Championship is an important and respectable event. But as far as the Asian Games is concerned, the under-23 event is deemed not so important.

Furthermore, relying on foreign help is not appropriate. Inclusion of foreign players in the national outfit and the recent hiring of Graham Roberts as coaching consultant might not go help Pakistan football. In fact, that is something that may make the newly-appointed coach Akhter Mohiuddin uncomfortable. Roberts has been hired for only two months while it is believed that Pakistan would need his services later when the Olympics and World Cup qualifiers are held next year.

Foreign players are only good if they are plying their trade in the top division of their national leagues. With the exception of Zesh Rehman and Adnan Farooq, there are no players who can boast experience and calibre. When they played for Pakistan a couple of years ago, the team benefited but unfortunately, neither has rejoined the team since.

Quality is a requirement missing in Pakistan football and it is unfortunate that the PFF has no idea how to obtain that or inject it in the squad.

M Wasim is a freelance sports writer

Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2010.