Will the Serbian coach deliver for Pakistan?

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Will Pakistan football team coach Zavisa Milosavljevic, who was hired for two years early last month, be able to put the country’s football on the right path, which has so far failed to progress in spite of tremendous talent?

Under Zavisa, the Serbian who took charge of the brigade picked up by former Pakistan coach Tariq Lutfi, Pakistan failed to qualify for the semifinals in the SAFF Cup held in New Delhi from December 2-12 after all their three pool games against Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal ended in draw.

Although Zavisa had injected a few senior players in the lot, the foreigner cannot be blamed for the failure as he needs time to produce better results. By picking a few seniors like Jaffar Khan and Samar Ishaq, he gave a clear message to the authorities that their decision to ignore these players in the recent past was not a right one. “Jaffar played extremely well during the SAFF Cup and is the best goalkeeper of the country,” Zavisa told ‘The News’ in an interview on Friday.

The Serbian these days is busy picking players during the ongoing Pakistan Premier Football League and is confident that he will be able to form good teams. “I am picking players both seniors and juniors and am optimistic that tough units will be formed for the coming international assignments,” the coach hoped.

The prime target of the coach is to pick around 25 young players for the 2013 AFC Under-22 Championship qualifiers, which will be held in June-July next year at a venue yet to be decided. “Although I have picked some under-22 players from the Premier League, there are certain players playing for certain academies who are good enough to be short-listed,” the coach said. “I will also pick the best players, both seniors and juniors, during the National Challenge Cup to be held in Karachi in February next year and will also try to hold open trials in different regions of the country to hunt those players who are not playing in the Premier League or any other domestic event.”

Zavisa added that he would also consider foreign-based players for the AFC Under-22 Championship qualifiers if there are any. “I have not yet seen any such foreign-based player, but will check if there is any one wishing to play for Pakistan,” he said.

The coach believes that he will be able to form such a fine senior team which will perform well in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers to be held in 2013. “I will try to build such a strong senior team which will qualify for the main round of the AFC Challenge Cup,” he said. However, the coach was not satisfied with the condition of the grounds in the country. “I am not satisfied with the ground conditions here and I will not be able to produce good results with such pitches. For perfect preparation, you need a perfect pitch,” he pointed out.

The coach has given his two-year plan to the PFF, but it is yet to be seen how much he will be able to influence the authorities to implement it. For better results, the coach will need a free hand and his plans should be implemented or his fate will be similar to George Kottan who failed to impress during his one-year tenure from February 2009 to February 2010.