Tariq Lutfi. -File photo
KARACHI: With his team sitting pretty at the top of the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) and despite a close competition at the top, Khan Research Laboratories’ (KRL) coach Tariq Lutfi is insistent that the league needs to improve — and that too by a long way.
The KRL lead the standings on goal difference from the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) with 28 points with three sides, namely Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) just a point behind.
According to Lutfi, though, it isn’t a fair reflection of the standard of football in Pakistan which continues to decline exponentially.
“Usually, when there is a tough competition, it reflects the strength of a league but that isn’t the case with the PPFL,” the former Pakistan head-coach told Dawn from Lahore.
“The league runs for a very short time in which we don’t see that high a standard of football as the teams have little space between games and there are numerous injuries.”
The PPFL runs for just four months and it provides the teams with a tough schedule as they have sometimes just a day’s rest before they have another game.
And according to Lutfi, that prevents the players from giving their best performance.
“Players get tired quickly as they have little time to rest between matches and that is why we don’t see such consistent performances,” he remarked.
Due to its four-month duration, the PPFL comes in the third-tier league structure of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) — Asia’s football governing body.
“The duration of the league should be extended to seven months,” recommends Lutfi. “That would ensure the players’ fitness levels are up to the mark and ensure that there is even better competition.”
It is a step that would ultimately help the national team.
“With the players being fit, the national team wouldn’t need to hold extensive training camps ahead of major tournaments as the players would have to come directly from their teams,” Lutfi said owing to his vast experience as national team coach.
But a vital tonic that the PPFL needs is some foreign players that could help raise the standards of the home-grown players. One foreign player for each team would bring good diversity and popularity to the league.
A good option is to hire African players. Footballers of the Dark Continent are usually very sound technically as well as tactically and they would help ensure a good exchange of ideas and playing styles that would benefit players from Pakistan.
And top PPFL sides can easily afford them.
“The KESC are offering lucrative contracts to the players they are hiring,” Lutfi stated. “Similarly, KRL too can do that but we need support from the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
“If individual departments start signing some good foreign players, it would set a good precedent and would not only help the PPFL but also assist our players to improve as they will be playing against some good players. Eventually, that will help the national team.”