No grounds, no facilities, lots of talent: Milosavljevic

Shazia Hasan []

KARACHI: Pakistan football team’s newly-hired Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic believes that the greenshirts cannot progress in the game at the international level unless they go back to the basics.

“The game will only grow from the grassroots. It is good that you have the Premier League, etc., here but what’s really required is a league for under-18, under-16 and under-14 players as well. That is what will give you a proper football system. Otherwise you can play as much football as you like and you’ll stay where you are,” said Milosavljevic while speaking to Dawn on the sidelines of the National Football Challenge Cup at the KPT Football Stadium here on Tuesday.

Commenting on the thin crowd present to watch the game between Khan Research Laboratories and the National Youth team, he said it was still better than Islamabad. When informed that hockey was the country’s national game and cricket the most popular one in the region, the coach shook his head and said: “Cricket and hockey may be more popular games here but they are hand and wrist games while football is played with legs and feet. You can’t feel very well with your legs as you can do with your hands, making football a far more challenging game.”

Talking about the Challenge Cup, the coach said it is a good event but club football could be a better way of developing the game. “The departments don’t have junior teams but the clubs do. Clubs are like schools while the departments playing in national events are like colleges. You can’t send primary school children directly to college without their attending secondary school, can you?” he asked. “There is something missing here and you can only fill that gap by focusing on junior players,” he added.

Speaking of other shortcomings in the country’s football infrastructure, the coach said that the football grounds here were also not of international standard. “Leave alone foreign pitches, do you even see such fields in the Indian or Iranian premier leagues? How can you swim without any water in the pool?”

He continued: “There is a lot of footballing talent in Pakistan but no support and hardly any facilities for the players. Still Pakistan is a great country, it is a powerful country, too, with plenty of talented players. Inshallah we will do well in football after taking care of these basics.”

The coach said that he would be watching each and every NFCC match in order to find the best boys for the Pakistan team. When asked what he would exactly be looking in the players to make the national squad, he said: “Fitness and good form. Players who can adapt to the team’s system, are disciplined, loyal to their country and, last but not least, obey their coach. The last one being the most important criteria,” he chuckled.

When asked where would he like to see the team under his coaching, he said: “Everything starts from the bottom. You can’t build a tall building without laying strong foundations.”