PFF must act now as foreign coaches line up for the job (DAWN)

By Shazia Hasan

Tom Saintfiet and Malik Riaz Hai Naveed
Tom Saintfiet and Malik Riaz Hai Naveed

Pakistan football team’s chief coach Tariq Lutfi may come up with all sorts of arguments to save his job, but the fact remains that the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is adamant on showing him the door in favour of a talented foreign coach.

After PFF Secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi’s recent admission that they were entertaining and short-listing applications from the foreign coaches for the much sought after position, Lutfi came up with many excuses about his team’s ordinary show and why he should stay on as coach of the national team.

First he said that rain was the main cause for his team’s failure in the the first leg clash against Bangladesh in Dhaka. He then shifted focus by arguing why the foreign players’ not attending full camp is made into an issue for Pakistan’s ouster from the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

He conveniently avoided speaking about his own shortcomings such as agreeing to play in pouring rain in Dhaka when he had the option of objecting to the conditions before the match or about making wrong choices and bringing in strikers who cannot dribble or shoot besides sticking with goalkeepers who are past their prime. Lutfi also ‘forgot’ all about his incompetent support team comprising Nasir Ismail, Gohar Zaman and Aslam Khan who failed to get the best out of the players in the camp.

Lutfi also emphasised that a foreign coach is only needed to supervise the work of the AFC Aid-27 coaches and not really for the training of the national team until the green jerseys reach a certain standard.

Thankfully, the PFF is paying no heed to the absurd reasoning of the country’s ‘most-qualified coach’. They had already made it clear at the time of hiring Lutfi that he was the best coach ‘under the circumstances’ as they didn’t have the funds to pay for a foreign coach. But now they say that PFF President Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat’s getting into the government as minister for housing and works has put him in a position to acquire the funds needed for the purpose.

Still trying to save on money, the PFF is looking for a sponsored coach whom they intend paying an honorarium, accommodation, travel allowance and a car.

Having Graham Roberts of England — who even came here and closely watched and worked with the team for two months last year, and Wolfgang Jerat of Germany who also came and left, they have now short listed applications from five more interested parties from the UK, Germany and Belgium. All have UEFA ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ diploma licenses. And the one from Belgium, Tom Saintfiet, who calls himself the “Eco Coach” for his energy-saving style for players, is even willing to work here at any cost.

Saintfiet has coached Namibia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia and before the World Cup qualifiers, he had announced that his tactics could help the Pakistan team win the first and second rounds against Bangladesh and Lebanon, but the PFF – living in a fool’s paradise then – weren’t impressed. However, while it may be a bit late, they can still consider him for the job.

As for the others, there is UEFA A-License English coach John H. Layton, who already has experience of coaching Pakistan’s U-16, 17, 19 and 21 teams along with the senior team, from 1999-2002.

Rehan Mirza, another coach from England, has a UEFA B-License and plenty of experience while another candidate, Klaus Stark of Germany, is the holder of the highest German coaches’ license, the German Football Teacher License and the Bundesliga and FIFA Licenses. He has also been the Leader of the German Football Project in Afghanistan (2004-2006) and Pakistan (2007). Another applicant, Michel Dinzey of Germany, also has a UEFA A-License and can be an ideal person for the job.

Pakistan and Bhutan are currently the only two countries in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) that do not have a foreign coach. With so many options available to the PFF now, they better make up for the lost time and hire a foreign coach before the game’s image in Pakistan gets irreparably damaged.