Pak football team needs a proper Manager

By our correspondent

Having wrong person for the wrong job in Pakistan is quite a common occurrence and football is no different. Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) over the years has tried various people in the role of National Team Manager who works with the coaching staff in assuring the team is operating smoothly.

This appointment is of no significance while local coaches are in charge because there the coach will pick his preferred person for the role in the past relatives of certain PFF officials have accompanied the team trips abroad.

Irfan Niazi could be termed as successful the most successful manager with the team which made it to the second round of 2008 Olympic Qualifiers and had worked with the likes of Salman Sharida. However recently, PFF have given little importance to this role by adding additional charge to the likes of Nasir Ismail, Gohar Zaman AND Asghar Khan Anjum etc who were serving as assistant coaches.

But now with the appointment of Zaviša Milosavljević on a medium term of 2 years it is important he is provided with a manager who can handle his role professionally.

What should the manager be able to do one would ask other than handling media duties, team logistics and player registration? The job of the national team manager is much bigger than that and some countries in the region have demonstrated its importance.


The Azkals’ Story

Take Dan Palami for example of the Philippines, he picked up the team when it was struggling to attract crowds, TV coverage and sponsors, and low FIFA world rankings in the 180s. His job was to recruit players of Filipino origin worldwide, arrange for a fulltime National team coach, and attract sponsors, media coverage and the rest.

The Philippines team is now one of the rapidly improving teams in Asia with heavy contingent of overseas born Filipino players, foreign coaches for both senior and junior teams alongside. Palami has transformed the football in his country, helping in getting the biggest TV deal in Filipino football history, with increasing corporate sponsorship further improving the standard of football in the country.

The Azkals (Left) and their manager Dan Palami (Right)

As a result large crowds turning up to watch not only national team but also the country’s once-amateur United Football League, with players now earning ten folds more in local football leagues. The man has transformed the unknown ‘Azkals’ – meaning ‘street dogs’ – into national super stars.

Gohar Zaman is a former player and a licenced coach who can only deliver on the pitch and not off it, he cannot be expected to do anything what somebody like Dan Palami has done for his team. With growing contingent of overseas players, coach demanding training camps abroad and international friendly matches on regular basis and with PFF having no proper marketing director, the role of proper manager is at most important now. If Pakistan is to get the best out of the new coach then a new manager will play a key role in all this for matters off the pitch.

Another thing the current manager and the rest of PFF has failed to manage is to work with players and the foreign offices of certain countries like Denmark, Germany and Norway in making sure the players can represent Pakistan while retaining their original citizenship. PFF and the current manager have failed to resolve this, costing the Pakistan team crucial tournaments in 2011, while the Philippines enjoy players from Denmark and growing number of them from Germany.

The manager should be able to help recruit/scout players, negotiate with their clubs regarding releases for NT matches, manage team affairs, handle documentations, taking care of players concerns and paying them on time.

In addition to all this the manager will have to take on extra responsibility of arranging matches in line with FIFA/AFC International dates, acquire sponsor for national team, and improve relations with other national teams because these tasks are not being done by those in the office due to their lack of experience and knowledge of the area. The manager must hail from a managerial/executive background with knowledge of football, like some of the sports managers at various government departments or other private clubs.

The manager must also work to build a bridge between the senior and junior teams by ensuring that young talent is being looked after and on track with their development plan. The manager could work to bring in extra support through their international partners in developing players and coaches.

There is also need of a full time director of football, ideally a foreigner with experience of developing players from academy level who can come in and oversee football development (coaching youth teams), player and coach education alongside providing technical assistance to PFF in streamlining the domestic football set up. The manager would also act as the go-between for the national team coach and director of football while only being answerable to the President and Secretary General of PFF.


The Candidates?

PFF can get its own version of Dan Palami, somebody with managerial/executive background with experience in football management, somebody like Zabe Khan of KESC or Taha Alizai of Karachi United FC could do the job.

LtoR - Zabe Khan (KESC), Taha Alizai (KUFC), Irfan Niazi (IFA & PFF)

Zabe has transformed KESC into a powerhouse and the biggest spenders in Pakistani football; a far cry from being the lowest paying team in PPL 3 years ago and playing 2nd tier football of Pakistan just 5 years ago. Zabe was also instrumental in the organisation and success of the 2010 Geo Super Football League, which Karachi Energy triumphantly won.

Taha meanwhile, has worked tirelessly in developing a solid club like KUFC  with a good youth set up and now Karachi United Football Foundation working all over the city running and reaching out into poorer neighbourhoods to unearth new talent.

Taha has also worked to organise the Karachi Premier League (now renamed Karachi United Football League) which in recent years managed to get TV coverage and has regular sponsors; something the PFF has not managed. He also played key role in KASB acquiring the marketing rights of PPL back in 2009 – only for the deal to fall through barely a few months later over strong differences between KASB and PFF on its organisation.

These individuals bring corporate network which could be crucial for bringing in sponsors while understanding the needs of modern football.

Irfan Niazi can also do a good job giving his experience with the National Teams however its unlikely he can bring the corporate, management experience and vision that Taha or Zabe etc possess which Pakistan really need if it is to progress in the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup and towards the 2015 Asian Cup.

Whether PFF will take such a bold step remains to be seen but one this is sure, if they don’t it will only harm the team.