Essa, Lutfi blame Zavisa and foreign players for defeats

KARACHI: Pakistan are out of the running for a place in the AFC Challenge Cup next year.

This after the national team fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday for their second successive loss in the qualifiers being held in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek following their loss to Tajikistan in the opener.

The repercussions of that defeat might as well result in Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic getting the sack.

“In the first real test of the national team, they have failed miserably,” Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn in the aftermath of their latest defeat.

“We’ve put in a lot and gave him all that he [Milosavljevic] wanted but he hasn’t produced the results. We have a few names in our mind and the PFF will be looking at them to replace him.”

The Serbian, who is under contract with the PFF till November this year, had been provided full assistance by the country’s football governing body ahead of the qualifiers.

The PFF had arranged preparatory tours to Nepal and the Maldives as well as tried their best to call up foreign-based players to the squad.

None of that seems to have helped.

“We invested in those tours so that the players got proper exposure ahead of the crucial assignment in Bishkek,” Lodhi said, lamenting the fact that Pakistan lost to a team placed 30 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

“We felt our preparations were top-notch but after the results in Bishkek, I question Milosavljevic’s decision of insisting on foreign-based players. It would’ve been better had we given Pakistan-based players a chance if we had to perform in such a dismal manner.”

Lodhi’s views were echoed by Tariq Lutfi — Milosavljevic’s predecessor and arguably the country’s top football manager.

“Foreign players only serve to create a divide in the team because they are given preferential treatment over local players,” Lutfi told Dawn.

“The good thing that the PFF has done is that it has invested heavily on the team but they should trust local coaches over foreign coaches.”

Pakistan’s performance in the qualifiers has been nothing short of dismal.

Going into the event, the Pakistan were eyeing a place in the Challenge Cup finals by virtue of finishing second in the group — if not first — and qualifying as two best second-placed teams from the five qualifying groups.

Tuesday’s loss meant they missed out on that event.

It also means Pakistan have also fallen behind in the South Asian region with Afghanistan having qualified as Group ‘C’ winners and India and Bangladesh now in pole position to qualify as two best second-placed finishers.

“This performance shows that we are lagging far behind in South Asia,” Lutfi said. “We were once the top sides in the region but we’ve fallen dramatically.”

Pakistan fell behind to a David Tetteh strike in the first minute of the game against Kyrgyzstan and never recovered with the hosts being backed by a vociferous crowd at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium, according to the AFC website.

Pakistan started with Denmark-based goalkeeper Yousuf Ejaz Butt in place of captain Jaffar Khan and he didn’t have the best of starts, beaten by a shot from the 27-year-old Ghana-born Tetteh, formerly of Russian club Dinamo Moscow, barely sixty seconds in.

Despite playing with three strikers — Mohammad Mujahid, Kaleemullah and Mohammad Ali — Pakistan failed to create clear-cut openings and with the final whistle, their chances of staying in the competition went up in smoke.

Kyrgyzstan are now second in the standings, behind Tajikistan on goal difference. Tajikistan had earlier beaten Macau 3-0 with a second-half brace from Jamshed Ismoilov.

Pakistan will now have only pride to play against Macau in their final match on Thursday when Kyrgyzstan clash with Tajikistan to decide the group winners.

by Umaid Wasim [Dawn]


KARACHI: Pakistan football team’s former captain Muhammad Essa has said that the performance of the national team in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup was pathetic.

“I think it is a hugely disappointing result from the team,” Essa told ‘The News’ in an interview on Wednesday. Pakistan crashed out of the AFC Challenge Cup on Tuesday after they lost to hosts Kyrgyzstan in their second game in Bishkek.

“People used to say the team needed international exposure. But now the management should have no excuse for this disastrous result in the qualifiers because the boys had been given extensive international exposure,” Essa remarked.

He said that the late joining of the foreign-players could be the main reason behind the setback. “How will you be able to produce better results when you are playing with those players who were not part of your training?”

He said that the coach Zavisa Milosalvjevic had no right now to continue as the coach. “We were expecting that Pakistan would proceed to the AFC Challenge Cup main round. And we were thinking if they did, it would bring a revolution in the country’s football but it did not happen and Zavisa has no right now to stay anymore,” said Essa, who had retired during the 2009 SAFF Cup in Dhaka after falling out with the then coach, Austrian George Kottan.

Essa warned that if the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) did not take remedial steps now, the game would suffer further.

He said that Bahraini coach Salman Ahmad Sharida would be a good choice for the country’s top coaching slot.

“I think Sharida’s induction as the coach would be more appropriate as he knows the system in Pakistan and can train the team well,” said Essa.

“Sharida is also not in favour of the foreign players. When he was coach, he had invited a few foreign-based players, but later focused on the local boys because he realised that those based abroad were not as committed,” recalled Essa, the country’s finest playmaker.

He pointed out that there were several areas where the system needed improvement. “Work should be done at the grassroots level. The football associations are not in real sense active bodies. Unless provincial and district associations contribute to the sport’s development, Pakistan cannot progress,” Essa stressed.

The PFF should not only improve its league but also its referees’ standard.

He also offered his services as a coach. “If the PFF needs my services at any stage, I will be available,” said Essa.

“I would have produced much better result had I been given the team for two years with so much international exposure,” Essa said.

He said unless media offered its support for football Pakistan would not be able to make any progress.

“Pakistan crashed out of a big event but not a single television channel gave the news, which showed how uninterested our media is in football,” Essa lamented.

by Alam Zeb Safi [The News]