Akhtar’s ouster was ‘politically motivated’

By Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: The ouster of the Pakistan football team coach Akhtar Mohiuddin was politically manipulated, ‘The News’ has learnt through well-placed sources.

Akhtar, who was an automatic choice after the federation failed to hire a foreign coach, failed to get the nod of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for the Olympic Qualifiers and other vital events to be held this year because one of the top officials of the Balochistan Football Association (BFA) had turned against him for the wrong reasons.

“When Pakistan were preparing for the Asian Games last year, the PFF president visited the camp in Lahore and advised Akhtar to call those probables for the camp who were representing their respective clubs and departments in the Pakistan Premier League. In response to the president’s directives, Akhtar called all those players who were part of the camp but Chaman-born striker Jadeed Khan Pathan preferred to keep representing his team Afghan FC in the Premier League in place of joining the camp. After a few days, Pathan was ultimately dropped from the final list for the Asian Games,” an insider said.

“The decision of the team management upset one of the top officials of the BFA and he then spoke in public during a Premier League match in Chaman that Akhtar Mohiuddin had dropped Jadeed Khan Pathan from the China-bound squad. The PBF official then did not favour Akhtar who was expected to be retained as national coach for the international assignments to be held this year.”

Sources said when the BFA left supporting Akhtar it became easy for other actors to play their role and to influence the PFF to bring in a new coach ahead of the Olympic Qualifiers against Malaysia. Sources said that keeping in view the forthcoming elections of the federation the PFF was compelled to kneel before the pressure of the stakeholders and announced Tariq Lutfi as head coach for the national team for one year.

It was for the first time in Pakistan’s footballing history that the PFF announced its head coach two days after the start of the camp for the Olympic qualifiers.

Sources said that the vice-president of the PFF in Sindh has strongly pleaded the case of Tariq Lutfi which ultimately forced the authorities in the centre to announce him as head coach.

The PFF president had told this correspondent that he was greatly impressed with the potential and coaching ability of Akhtar Mohiuddin but the decision of the new coach Tariq Lutfi was made after taking input from all the stakeholders.

Currently, Tariq Lutfi is being supported in the camp by the Pakistan’s most qualified coach Nasir Ismail, Gohar Zaman and goalkeeping coach Aslam Khan. Pakistan will face Malaysia in their first leg of the Olympic Qualifiers on February 23 in Kuala Lumpur while in their return leg both the nations will meet in Pakistan on March 9.