Faisal’s new status to boost PFF ‘foreign coach’ plans

By Shazia Hasan [Dawn]

KARACHI: With Faisal Saleh Hayat’s joining the government as the Federal Minister for Housing and Works and also getting elected unopposed as president of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for another four years, his chances of succeeding in hiring a foreign coach for the national football team have definitely improved.

The PFF missed out on a great opportunity earlier this year when they failed to come up with the funds required to hire 51-year-old English coach Graham Roberts, who was sent here on a two-month trial basis by his English sponsors TouchSky Sports.

Disappointed over the loss, they had bitterly complained that the government was not on their side because their president happened to be a part of the opposition.

Meanwhile, Roberts was offered the job of coaching Nepal’s national football team which he happily accepted while the PFF took on former national coach Tariq Lutfi for the job, saying he was the best option under the circumstances.

But with the recent change in Faisal Hayat’s status, chances are that the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) would listen to PFF’s case and help out in the funds department. “We are not even asking them to provide us the funds but pay the coach directly if they don’t trust us,” said the PFF Secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi while speaking to Dawn on Friday.

According to the PFF, they need a foreign coach to raise the standard of the national football team.

“A foreign coach doesn’t come cheap though. The European coaches from England or Germany cost around US$20,000 while those from the eastern side like Romania or Yugoslavia are gettable for US$10,000. Then we also get applications from China who demand US$3,000,” Lodhi informed.

“But we are looking for someone with more experience with Asian countries,” he added.

When informed of PFF’s plans, the current national team chief coach Tariq Lutfi, who has recently got his coaching qualifications assessed from Germany, said that he was well aware of Faisal Saleh Hayat’s vision, which he has no desire to challenge.

“I am in support of getting a foreign coach too, but not for the national team,” said Lutfi who is now being considered equivalent to a UEFA License-A coach.

“I think we should allow the Pakistan football team to reach some kind of a standard before being handed over to a foreign coach as it is my belief that the person coming in won’t be able to do much for them at this stage,” he added.

“You tell me what was Bob Houghton able to do for the Indian football team during his seven-year tenure with them?” he asked.

“If you ask me, they should bring in a foreign coach to supervise the work of the Asian Football Confederation [AFC] AID-27 coaches. The under-19, U-17, U-16 and U-14 teams are the ones in need of all the real attention here. And that’s also where the potential lies.

“Our junior teams are doing very well at the international level. But something happens to these boys as they start to fade even before they can reach their peak to make the national team. Therefore we need someone to start from the lower level and work up from there while improving our youth structure wich in turn will result in rise in the level of the game here,” he explained.

Talking about the national team Lutfi also said that he hasn’t let its standard fall in the 11 or 12 matches for which he was their coach. “Austrain coach George Kotton was also a foreign coach and that too a UEFA-pro but the team under him experienced new lows,” Lutfi pointed out.

“Today everyone talks about the great work Bahrain’s Salman Sharida did with the boys. But it is a fact that I worked with the team before Sharida and got them the gold medal in the 2004 SAFF Games. I was the one who handed Sharida a group of well-trained winners,” he declared.