‘Pakistani Pep’ needed as CMG looks to revive ‘Clash of the Titans’



[Report from DAWN]

KARACHI, April 4: In 2011, Pakistan and India were set for a three-match football series in England billed as a ‘Clash of the Titans’.

The titans, though, never clashed.

Now, Indian event management company Celebrity Management Group (CMG) is looking to revive that series, only to make it a triangular series involving Bangladesh.

“We’ve received a proposal from CMG as they want to host us for two matches against India and Bangladesh in June,” Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn on Thursday.

“We’re looking into the proposal and if it covers all our expenses — travelling, accommodation and practice — we’ll have no problem in going to England.

“We’re always looking to give our players good exposure,” he added.

The latest tour proposal evokes memories of the ‘Clash of the Titans’ series which was scheduled to be held in August 2011.

UK-based company TouchSky Sports (TSS) was organising those matches which were scheduled to be held in Manchester, Coventry and London.

It generated great fanfare with British boxer Amir Khan, who is of Pakistani origin set to lead out the national team in each of those games.

The organisers, though, pulled the plug on the series at the last minute citing they had not received adequate money from the sponsors.

Almost two years later, the PFF is mulling a similar proposal from the CMG.

The CMG promotes itself as an event management company whose focus is to inculcate a passion for sports — predominantly football.

They have been largely successful in promoting the game in India and Bangladesh; bringing Argentina for a series of friendly matches to the sub-continent in 2011.

Last year in October, they brought Diego Maradona to Kolkata with the Argentine legend kicking off their project named ‘Mission 2020’.

“Through Mission 2020, we aspire to develop an Indian soccer team which will qualify for the 2020 FIFA World Cup,” the CMG says on its website.

However, they do have a chequered history.

In January last year, they set upon launching an IPL-style football league named Premier League Soccer (PLS). They marketed it with much flair, even signing up stars like Fabio Cannavaro, Robbie Fowler and Robert Pires.

It failed to take off and has been in the doldrums since.

Still, if the CMG does manage to hold their proposed series, the Green-shirts will need a shrewd manager for the two encounters if they are to get good results.

According to Ghanaian midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, world football a Pakistani manager in the mould of Pep Guardiola to counter racism.

The AC Milan playmaker, who was racially abused during the Italian giants’ friendly game against Pro Patricia and walked off from the pitch, has joined hands with the United Nations to counter the ‘dangerous disease’ of racism.

”If football gets more multi-cultural, it gets more people and more countries involved and these things can help,” he told the BBC two weeks ago on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“Let’s hope that soon there’s going to be a black Jose [Mourinho] and Pakistani Pep,” he added referring to the Real Madrid manager and Bayern Munich’s next coach.

Pakistan, meanwhile, need someone of the stature of the former Barcelona gaffer for purely sporting reasons.

A dismal performance by the team coached by Serbian Zavisa Milosavljevic in their AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers last month saw Pakistan missing out on the finals to be held next year.

India and Bangladesh, meanwhile, narrowly missed out on the finals.

The PFF, though, is seemingly persisting with Milosavljevic — at least until the end of his contract in November. “Milosavljevic will stay till his contract ends,” Lodhi said on Thursday.

If the CMG-proposed tour does happen, Milosavljevic will have a chance to test his side against their possible opponents in the 2013 SAFF Championship slated to be held in September.

But if Pakistan are to come out of their recent slump, and win the region’s biggest footballing honour, they will need someone who has the tactical nous of Guardiola.

Before Guardiola decided to join Bayern in January, the Qatar Football Association (QFA) had offered him a multi-million dollar deal to take over their national team with the Spaniard having helped them in securing hosting rights for the 2020 World Cup.

But will the PFF look to assistance from QFA, with whom it inked a MoU for the promotion of football last month, in preparation for the SAFF Championship? “If they offer us to use their facilities, we’ll certainly welcome that,” Lodhi said.