No competition!

Football which is called the poor man’s game in our country is the highest paid game of the rest of the world, even Bangladesh. Whatever football was played or is even played today is the inborn talent/quality of the individuals here.

The young boys never get coaching in their childhood but of course those youngsters who belong to well-to-do families and study in elite institutions, and who are impressed, interested or motivated through the English Premier League or other matches of the world, do try to get some coaching from some of the old players or watch football coaching videos.

Unfortunately, such videos are out of reach of the majority of the football enthusiasts in the country who hail from poor families. The best example of this is Karachi’s Lyari where almost every house has a football star, who is neglected.

In the past, Karachi has produced world-level players like Captain Omar, Turab Ali, Musa Ghazi, Hussain Killer, Yousuf Senior, Yousuf Junior, Ghafoor Manja, Abdullah Rahi, Abid Ghazi, Ali Nawaz Balauch, Jabbar Qadir and Idrees.

From Quetta, excluding myself, there were Qayyum Ali Changezi, Taj Senior, Taj Junior, Ismail Durrani, Hashim, Sardar Aslam, Ayub Dar, Master Siddiq, Kazim Rajo and Mali. Similarly, Lahore produced Talib Tulli, M.N. Jehan, Masood, Haq, Riasat and Younus Rana Asghar while Peshawar is proud to have produced Jahangir Khan, Kaku, Zamanay and Sumbal Khan.

There has always been a question in the minds of every Pakistani about our failure in improving the game here as it only requires one football and 22 players at the most.

The answer to this is that football requires a base, which is called a ‘ground’, and which we unfortunately don’t have many. The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) itself does not own a ground in the country. So even though the federation is spending a good amount of money on football nowadays it has been unable to come up with any good result or be able to produce any good player whom people recognise.

The Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) has been started by the feeration for the improvement of football but instead it has deteriorated due to lack of coverage in print or the electronic media. So no one here really knows much about it. I feel that this is so because the matches are played in such remote areas where at times even teams find it difficult to find the venues.

Another very serious problem for the players is that the matches are played consecutively and finished in three months time only. Every team has to play 30 matches on a home-and-away basis. And no one except the Army, Navy, Air Force, Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) and Karachi Port Trust (KPT) has a home ground.

And except for KPT where players play openly, because of security reasons nobody is allowed to witness the matches in the other four stadiums. Some of these places even prevent the extra players to witness a match. As for the rest of grounds used by other clubs and departments, they belong to the communities or city government. Many of them are also not maintained very well.

Due to security reasons, now Balochistan is also problematic. Most teams are reluctant to go to Quetta which results in a walkover that negates the real aim of PPFL.

It is worth mentioning here that the management knowing the weather conditions also make the schedule in such a way that the teams coming from Balochistan play their matches in September, October and November in Punjab when the weather there is rather hot and the rest of teams have to play their matches in minus 10 degrees at Quetta, Chaman and Noshki. This is very silly.

It is also very discouraging to note that teams going down the ladder mostly compromise with the other teams by hook or crook to remain in the Premier League. As a result the newer teams find themselves relegated.

The departments spend a good amount of money to qualify for the league and once they qualify, they cannot survive due to such compromises between the older teams.

Hence many departments with new teams are reluctant to enter the competition. This is how the basic concept of the league is killed.

by Lt Col (Retd) Muhammad Yunus Changezi for Dawn’s Images on Sunday magazine, 13 January 2013

The writer, a legendary football player of his time, is a former chairman of the PFF selection committee