Professionalism beyond reach of PFF

By our correspondent

When it comes to professional football, it is something that doesn’t exist in Pakistan and the people in charge are clueless on the concept. The status of the game is clear to all, amateur football where players earn through departmental jobs.

There is a stark contrast to overseas players that Pakistan includes in the National Team. These players are mixture of professional who are contracted full time at their clubs and earning their living while some play semi-professional at same time have full time or part time day jobs, some studying or doing both.

While the players in Pakistan have jobs at departments at various grades with healthy perks, the overseas players don’t enjoy such luxury. Yes their football maybe more rewarding but they don’t have jobs for life and majority of cases they are juggling job and education with their club and national team football. However Pakistani coaches are still quick to question their commitment towards the National team and the country, yes those coaches who themselves are only there for personal gains.

What is more mind bogging is the lack of understanding PFF officials have while dealing with the clubs of these players. In the past coaches have accommodated certain players late in the team due to the release issue with their club. Clubs are too bound by FIFA rules on when can they release the players. This something the PFF can’t get a hang of.

After the defeats to Bangladesh, Tariq Lutfi was quick to blame the overseas players, citing their late arrivals doesn’t help the team while failing to take any responsibility, something a top quality professional coach wouldn’t do. Lutfi has also questioned the fitness of the players going from abroad, but how can the coaches have the audacity to question this when all of them turn up at their peak fitness and sharpness and clocking the outdated Cooper test well inside the time limit.

Atif Bashir and Adnan Ahmed have been the best players in green jersey over the last 3 years, while Amjad Iqbal and Shabir Khan did tremendous job in 2009 SAFF Cup but have been out for a year with injuries costing the National Team even more.

After the confirmation of the trip to UK, PFF started to bow down to the demands of Lutfi in calling up the overseas players 2weeks in advance, in a trip which many expect Pakistan to get a thrashing against India, PFF is keen to fulfill is this wish before parting way. It is ridiculous that the overseas players from Europe need to travel to Pakistan for 2weeks during Ramdhan only to return back to play games in UK. Why can’t PFF bring the squad over here few days early to prepare and acclimates.

If anybody at PFF including the coaches understood the professional game in Europe then they would only be negotiating with clubs on FIFA Dates, but unfortunately there is nobody who understands this.

To ask Zesh Rehman or Nabil Aslam etc to come for 4weeks while the clubs pay more than few thousand dollars a month, just to go a spend a month with Pakistan? While other semi professionals like Shabir Khan, Atif Bashir and Irfan Khan take break from their day jobs, study only to turn up for US$ 6 a day and then have their commitment questioned!

The local players can afford to do this because domestic football as at the mercy of PFF and the players have fix jobs and 6USD per day isn’t a bad amount.

The coaching staff plays crucial role in terms of making adjustments and taking players into confidence. So far in the 7months in charge, Lutfi and co have not cared to take a trip to Europe to watch the other players for themselves and plan accordingly but that is only done by those coach who have ambition and will to succeed. It is now important that Lutfi and co organize the local players accordingly that it compliments the overseas players and the PFF stop blowing the trumpet of joining a camp early in Pakistan.

There are teams in Asia who have majority of their squads playing abroad and play very well with squads joining within FIFA Rules, why? Because their coaches and management are professionals, where footballers are put first and not the office bearers or the coaches.

You will not see Tim Cahill, Shinsuke Nakamura, Javad Nekounam or Park Ji Sung to be coming 2weeks early during the season to come and train for 3matches that are to be played on his doorstep in UK.

Lionel Messi played in every single World Cup Qualifier for Argentina traveling back and forth from Barcelona, can you doubt his commitment? Then why doubt of Adnan Ahmed or Atif Bashir or others.

The players playing outside Pakistan know the required fitness standard for Pakistan National team and they maintain that while playing at a lot higher standard than the PPL. And those who calling for the overseas players to come and play in PPL and prove their worth just need to take time out to see the difference in the standard because so far nobody from Pakistan has gone on to play at the standard these players are proving their quality.

The famous saying of the great college basketball coach John Wooden “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” can be applied to PFF at every competition.

PFF has on most of the time organized such camps with warm up games against mediocre local teams in which the NT fails get challenge anywhere near to the standard of its opponent and results in defeats most of the time. PFF has continued to give ‘lack of funds’ as an excuse while not making its accounts public and players and nation suffering humiliation after humiliation.

PFF need a professional Director of National Team who has the expertise and capabilities of organizing friendly matches and training camps abroad because the top leadership has shown its in capabilities in doing so. This has happened due to the non technical officials running the PFF and having little understanding on organizing the matches on FIFA Match days, but even for those the continue to use lack of finances as an excuse.

So overall PFF and the coaches should allow the overseas players to start their season on positive note while allowing them to join up with the team in UK. The coaches while running the camp in Pakistan should focus on the areas that has cost Pakistan matches recently and that can only if happen if Mr Lutfi starts attending the training sessions and not leave it to his assistant.

How Pakistan performs against India will depend on who Lutfi picks and how he accommodates his overseas contingent, maybe one last time he can give merit a priority.