‘Foreigners’ causing harm: Essa

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Former captain Mohammad Essa has said if the foreign-based footballers are unable to join the camp at least 20 to 25 days ahead of any international event then they should not be inducted into the squad as their late arrival always harms the national team.

“I am not against these players because they are good both physically and technically. But there is a great difference in the playing style of these boys and our players and when they join the team’s camp late the team faces great problems in coordination while playing in international events,” Essa told ‘The News’ in an interview on Thursday.

“They should either be brought into the team’s preparatory camp 20 or 25 days before the start of any international event or should not be considered at all as our home-based boys are also capable to perform,” the Chaman-born playmaker said.

Essa said that Pakistan have always suffered losses since these players have been playing in the team.

“Tell me where we have performed with these players. The main problem with them is that being professional players and most loyal to their clubs they normally don’t play with the type of courage and commitment our own boys play with while representing Pakistan in international competitions. They try to protect themselves from injuries. And if a player does not offer his hundred percent it normally affects the performance of the whole team,” stressed the 27-year old player, who retired in 2009.

Four ‘foreign’ players including England-based Zeeshan Rehman, Atif Bashir, Adnan Farooq Ahmed and Ahmed Akber Khan from Australia were part of the team which lost to Bangladesh 0-3 in Dhaka on Wednesday in their first leg of the opening round of the World Cup 2014 qualifiers.

Both the teams will face each other in the second leg at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore on July 3.

Midfielder Adnan Farooq Ahmed (Aboomoslem FC, Iran) and defender Atif Bashir (Barry Town, Wales) had joined the team’s camp for the qualifiers in Islamabad barely four or five days before the team’s departure to Dhaka on June 27 while defender Zeeshan Rehman, who plays for Muangthong United FC in the Thailand top league, joined the team in the Bangladeshi capital just a day before Pakistan’s key first leg of the qualifiers. However, striker Ahmed Akber Khan, who does not have any professional commitment in Australia, was in the camp right from the start.

About Pakistan’s miserable loss at the hands of Bangladesh in the first leg of the qualifiers, Essa said Bangladesh are a better team but three goals are too much.

“I believe that Bangladesh is a better side but the 0-3 defeat is too much. They win against Pakistan because they have better domestic structure than what we have here in our own country. Their club level coaching is of good standard. Their clubs not only have some foreign coaches but have also roped in foreign players as well. Their league also spans over six months which keeps the players fit for national duty,” he said.

Under Essa’s captaincy, Pakistan had held Bangladesh to a goalless draw in their SAFF Championship match in Dhaka in 2009.

He said that the constant disruption of the team’s combination and coach has always harmed Pakistan team.

“There is a general trend here that when a team starts settling down and produces results, its combination is broken by ignoring majority of the players. The current team playing in the qualifiers comprises of the best available talent and I must advise the authorities to stick with it and in a couple of years you will see a marked improvement in their performance,” he said.

“Similarly the PFF should stick to a single coach and give him at least three years. Better results cannot be produced overnight and particularly when our domestic structure needs lot of improvement,” Essa concluded.