Coach Zavisa speaks with ‘The News’

Building a solid foundation
Serbia’s Zavisa Milosavljevic is hoping to put Pakistan football on the right track
By Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

It is an accepted fact that in spite of having a lot of potential Pakistan have failed to progress in the field of football. The low standing of Pakistan in the football world can be attributed to defective planning, flaws in the domestic league structure, a lack of vision, improper training programmes and dearth of resources.

According to the new rankings issued by the world football governing body (FIFA) last week, Pakistan have slumped further and now they are ranked 181st, three places lower than the war-ravaged Afghanistan who now stand at 178th following their brilliant performance in the SAFF Cup in New Delhi where they reached the final against India.

Last year, Pakistan suffered badly in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers, Olympic Qualifiers, World Cup Qualifiers and then in the SAFF Cup. But no one bothered about the reasons of these failures. When a top official of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) said in a statement during the FIFA World Cup in South Africa last year that Pakistan would qualify for the 2022 World Cup, experts treated it as a ridiculous claim.

The critics were right as the country will need progress in the field by leaps and bounds if the nation wants to achieve the milestone of qualifying for the World Cup. It will be like a dream come true if Pakistan plays the World Cup. But we may not be alive to see this.

After the turmoil experienced by Pakistan in major international events, PFF finally signed on November 5 last year a Serbian coach — Zavisa Milosavljevic — for two years. He has been given the responsibility of working on not only the senior team, but also the youth and coaches of the country.

Zavisa acted as Pakistan coach when the team failed to progress beyond the league stage in the SAFF Cup after all their three group games against the Maldives, Nepal and Bangladesh ended in draw.

But the Serbian should not be blamed for the poor performance of Pakistan as he was assigned the task barely twenty days before that tournament. He remains optimistic that if he stays for a few years and his demands about training are met by the authorities he will turn the national team into a fighting unit. Zavisa is also impressed by the Pakistan colts and has stressed working properly on them to make them fully prepared for national duty.

‘The News on Sunday’ recently talked to him in detail about future plans for Pakistan football. Here are a few excerpts.

TNS: What do you think about the talent base in Pakistan?

Zavisa: Definitely, Pakistani nation has great potential. I saw a lot of talented young players.

TNS: If there is talent, how can it be improved and polished to make the future of football in Pakistan stronger?

Zavisa: All teams in the Premier League must have youth categories as a condition to participate in the league. It’s known that creating a top level national team requires a period of at least eight to ten years. In that building period players must pass throughout five developmental phases: period of learning, game, and mini-competition (8-14 years), period of learning, pre-training and competition (14-16 years), period of training and competition (16-18 years), period of super training and competition (18 years and more); and period of super training and super competition (senior national team).

TNS: Last year, Pakistan under-16 team won the SAFF Cup in Nepal by beating India in the final. What should the PFF do now with that team to turn it into a fighting lot for future?

Zavisa: If they meet the requirements I have mentioned, I must say that the young guns could be prepared properly.

TNS: You have signed as a coach for two years. Are you optimistic that you will be able to get desired results?

Zavisa: Making a competitive senior team needs coaching stint for at least two to four years. During the period, programme of training must be fully followed. The newly proposed programme requires good strategy and plan: Target: What is our final aim? Analysis: Where are we now? Vision: Where do we want to be? Action: How do we get there? Control: Are we getting that?

TNS: Pakistan will feature in the Asian Cup Under-22 Qualifiers. What is your plan for that and what chances do you see for the team?

Zavisa: We have made a comprehensive training plan and our target will be to qualify for the final round to be held in 2013.

TNS: What do you think about the league structure in Pakistan and how can it be improved?

Zavisa: It is absolutely necessary to professionalise the league structure.

TNS: Should Pakistan establish a football academy? If yes, then on what basis should it be operated?

Zavisa: Of course, there should be an academy and the model should be that of the Netherlands, Serbia, Spain and Japan.

TNS: Are you confident that Pakistan senior team will be able to perform in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers next year?

Zavisa: Definitely, if we are going to play with a full team, also including foreign-based players.

TNS: Are pitches in Pakistan okay?

Zavisa: No, they need improvement.

TNS: Also tell us about your personal life and football career for Serbia?

Zavisa: I did not play for the national team of Serbia. Since 1986 I have been working as a professional coach. Before opting for the job in Pakistan, I served Serbia, Monte Negro, Rwanda, and Lesotho in the same capacity.

TNS: What do you think about coaching job in Pakistan? Is it not challenging?

Zavisa: A great professional challenge for me. I hope to make it a success.

TNS: Are you enjoying your life in Lahore?

Zavisa: In the beautiful and great country with hospitable and friendly people, I enjoy myself a lot.

TNS: What type of Pakistani food do you like?

Zavisa: Roti, kabab and paya.

TNS: How many foreign-based players are needed by Pakistan?

Zavisa: All players who are willing to sacrifice for Pakistan.

TNS: Any security concerns in Pakistan?

Zavisa: Pakistan is my home.