PFF eyes higher aims as press conference turns chaotic

by Shazia Hasan [Dawn]

KARACHI, June 18: Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) press conference to educate the media about their recent association with the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) turned out to be a messy affair when there were no convincing answers to questions such as why the federation president doesn’t face the Karachi media and why the press was not informed about the tournament whose final they were invited to watch at the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) Stadium on Monday.

“Well, Faisal Saleh Hayat is a political figure with many responsibilities on his shoulders, so I, as the first PFF paid secretary am here speak to you on his behalf,” said Secretary General Col Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi while replying to the question regarding his president’s absence.

“About the 7—a-side Girls Youth Football School Championship, the final of which is being played here today, I think Sadia Shaikh, who is organising it, will be in a better position to tell you what that is all about,” said Col Lodhi while directing the query to her.

“Don’t ask me, ask my colleagues here,” said Sadia Shaikh while pointing towards a few female officials seated somewhere on the side.

Meanwhile, the secretary general, flanked by Sindh Football Association (SFA) President Syed Khadim Ali Shah and his secretary Hassan Baloch, said they were doing all they could, despite shortage of funds, to give a healthy outlet to youths in the form of football. “Pakistan’s national team is placed 30th in Asia at the moment,” he provided. “And what we are looking to do is at least bring our team up to number 15,” he announced.

“We are well aware that this is not an easy thing to do. We are aiming quite high but we have to do this if we ever want to qualify for the FIFA World Cup,” said Lodhi.

“The boys playing U-13 football today are our assets and we want to groom them well. When the current PFF management took charge, our junior team was losing by huge margins on the international level. But our hard work with these boys has enabled the junior team to come second and third in the AFC football festivals held in Iran in 2010 and 2011.

“And then the U-16 outfit did the unimaginable by winning the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-16 Football Championship in Nepal in August 2011,” he said.

“Today 90 per cent of the boys in our main U-22 team that is currently in Bahrain, preparing to take part in the AFC Under-22 Asian Championship 2013 Qualifiers Group ‘B’ to be held in Saudi Arabia from June 23 to July 3, are actually U-19 players,” he informed.

“Therefore, we are grateful to the ASC for joining hands with us in grooming our youth for future challenges. The ASC had sanctioned Rs1.5 million for boys’ football, and now we have requested them to contribute more funds for women’s football, too.”

Asked why the boys playing so well at the U-13 and U-16 levels got burnt out by the time they reached the level of the national team, Lodhi said: “Well, playing at the youth level is quite different and basic than playing at the advanced level. That’s where some of the boys can’t cope and fall out of the race.

“These kids need to excel at that level too but many are suffering from a psychological problem — they can’t see themselves play and win for Pakistan as part of the national team. We are working on helping them lose this inferiority complex. We have hired a great foreign coach in Zavisa Milosavljeviæ and hope to see some results with him working with our national team,” he said.

“The PFF is at a disadvantage when it comes to funds, but we are doing all that we can. Our annual budget in Rs50,00,000 [50 lac] and we are spending around Rs20 million per tournament, so you can imagine how hard it is for us,” he remarked.

To another question regarding the FIFA Goal Project-II in Karachi’s Hawkesbay, the secretary general said he is glad to report that they are working 15 days ahead of schedule. “You can expect the Goal Project to be completed by Feb 2013,” he concluded.