PFF fails to act in time as Nepal laps up Roberts

KARACHI, Jan 27: After failing to rehire Bahraini coach Salman Sharida, who was eventually offered to coach his national team Bahrain last October, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has also missed out on the opportunity of signing on former Tottenham great Graham Roberts.

Pakistan’s loss became Nepal’s gain when they appointed Roberts as their national coach to prepare their team for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers that are to take place in Nepal from March 20 to 31.

The 51-year-old English coach served as technical consultant for the Pakistan football team for a brief two months for which he was paid by a European sponsor. Extending his contract would have required of the PFF to pay his salary thereafter, which they claim to not have the funds to do although he was badly needed keeping in view the national team’s busy 2011 schedule including the qualifiers for the Olympic Games as well as the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Nepal faces a tough challenge to qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup proper in 2012. But Roberts is confident of making an impact. He is also hopeful that it will result in a long-term deal with the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), who have initially taken him onboard for four months.

“The deal is for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers but hopefully it will lead to a longer term agreement,” a press release on Thursday quoted him as saying.

“I’ve got six weeks to prepare so my aim is to go there, work hard, get the lads fit and prepared for the tournament, including some games and hopefully we can make an impact.

“So far I have nothing but nice things to say about Nepal, all their dealings have been above board and they want me there, which is important.I’m looking forward to the challenge, hopefully I can work with the local coaches and teach them a few things but my short-term the main goal is getting the team fit and prepared.”

Having said that he added that the Pakistan situation was unfortunate but he believed the Asian experience will help him make a smooth transition into the Nepalese post.

Roberts made his name as a player at Spurs, who won the 1984 UEFA Cup with the defender scoring in the final against Belgians Anderlecht, while he also won six caps for England. The UEFA ‘A’ and ‘B’-licensed coach has coached Yeovil Town (England) and Clyde (Scotland), with the Pakistan job being his most recent.

“Yes it is our loss and Nepal’s gain. I wish Roberts all the best with his new assignment. He was very happy in Pakistan but it is unfortunate that we didn’t have the resources to extend his contract with us,” said PFF Director Marketing and Event Management Sardar Naveed Haider Khan while speaking to Dawn on Thursday.

Still the PFF hasn’t given up on the idea of getting the national team a well-qualified and able foreign coach. “We have many other applications of good coaches in our folder. There are experts from Iran, Argentina, Brazil and many European countries, who are all keen to come here but we can only consider them if we have the requisite funds,” said Naveed Haider, who also happens to be the main person responsible for bringing Roberts to Pakistan last year.

The PFF, according to their director marketing, have put in a request to the Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani for a grant of Rs150 million for them to be able to hire a foreign coach.

“Our President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat has even sent the PM a letter regarding the matter but we are yet to get a response from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat,” he concluded.