Foreign-born footballers eager to be part of team

By Umar Farooq

LAHORE: Foreign-born Pakistan footballers Yousaf Butt and Irfan Khan are eager to be part of the team, claiming there is no shortage of talent in the country. The duo insisted that the players needed to be motivated and groomed by giving them international exposure.

“Players in the camp are very enthusiastic,” said Khan. “I believe this is an important step up. If we compare the facilities here with other parts of the world, the difference is visible but I’m impressed with the energy among the players despite the lack of facilities.

“I’m working with the coaches here and the standard of training is impressive.”

Meanwhile, Denmark-based goal-keeper Yousuf also joined three other domestic goal-keepers in the training camp for the build up to the Pakistan Youth team’s tour to Thailand and the 2012 Olympic Football Asian Qualifying Tournament.

“Irrespective of what people may say, I can now see that Pakistan football has incredible potential,” said Yousaf.” “And I’m very eager to be the part of the national team. With my foreign league experience I will hope to deliver my best for the country.”

However, Yousaf asserted that the team will have to work very hard in improving their defence when Pakistan take on Malaysia for the 2012 Olympic qualifiers. The first leg is to be played in Kuala Lumpur on February 23, while the other clash is in Pakistan on March 9.

Coach Lutfi voices concerns

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) head coach Tariq Lutfi voiced his concerns regarding the lack of confidence in the local players. “Although we have the potential, I feel the boys are lacking in confidence when it comes to playing football internationally,” said Lutfi. “I’m trying to motivate them all. My job is to make them realise that they have the capability and talent to do well at the international level.”

Meanwhile, Lutfi took a u-turn regarding foreign footballers and said: “I believe we need these expatriates not because I don’t trust the local talent but because of the experience these players bring with them.”

“The home-grown players are more enthusiastic now and have shown improvement after the arrival of Irfan and Yousuf. No one can deny the fact that having had a good base in terms of training and grooming, these foreigners are very disciplined and hardworking. They have the right temperament to play and they make fine team members.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2011.