What does Maradona know about Pakistan football? [DAWN]

What does Maradona know about Pakistan football? [DAWN]

Umaid  Wasim – DAWN

Nothing much it seems.

All Diego Maradona knows is that Pakistan haven’t featured at a World Cup.

And for that, he’s compared the Argentina Football Federation (AFA) with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), apparently implying that his country’s federation is as incompetent.

This is not surprising at all because the former World Cup winner wants to be the Argentina national team coach at the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.

In an interview with German magazine Sport Bild, the man who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup expressed his frustrations for being sacked as the ‘Albiceleste’ coach after their 2010 FIFA World Cup debacle when they were crushed 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals.

“The AFA has played dirty tricks on me. I should have also been the Argentina coach at the [2014] World Cup. But the current leaders of the association understand as much about football as Pakistan does,” he said.

“They don’t have a clue at all.

“To clarify: There are certainly many good things in Pakistan, but I have never seen them play a World Cup final.

“I say: The current association leaders in Argentina are the same as Pakistan.”

And while the social media goes crazy over what Maradona said, lets just pause for a minute and see what the Pakistan Football Federation has been doing over the years.

Is it really that bad? No, it isn’t.

While it’s easy to sit back and, as a armchair critic, suggest that football hasn’t grown in Pakistan and nothing has been done by the PFF, it’s time to get the facts straight.

The PFF, headed by Faisal Saleh Hayat, has been running the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) for the last ten years.

In the last decade, not a single season has been missed, and that too despite the federation running on grants from FIFA and AFC.

Over the last three years, Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) have been champions.

Last season, they became the first club team from Pakistan to reach the final of an AFC competition when they were beaten finalists in the AFC President’s Cup – the continent’s third-tier club competition.

This season, if KRL get through the first round of the President’s Cup, they will qualify for next year’s AFC Cup – Asia’s version of the Europa League.

Last month Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi Dynamo signed KRL’s star attackers Mohammad Adil andKaleemullah.

Both now have a chance at a better future.

Could they have done that without the PPFL?

“The current PFF setup is working towards lifting the standard of football step by step,” KRL head-coach Tariq Lutfi told Dawn.com.

“It would be foolish to expect them to turn things overnight but we should support them in their endeavours because they at least have ensured a proper football structure in the country,” adds the UEFA A-Licensed coach, who is also, arguably, Pakistan’s most decorated coach.

Not only is the PFF organizing the league, but it’s also trying to focus on youth football and women’s football.

Pakistan were the winners of the inaugural SAFF U-16 Championship in 2011.

There is a PFF Women’s Championship which is held every year and this year, Pakistan will host the SAFF Women’s Championship.

The PFF has managed to do all that despite internal turmoil and unrest in the country, despite the threat of militant insurgency, and, most importantly, despite a lack of sponsorship for a majority of its tournaments.

The PFF got the most ‘Aspiring Member Association’ award by AFC last year and they plan to launch academies all throughout the country through FIFA’s goal projects by next year. And at least they have a target to achieve – it is ‘Goal 2022’ by when PFF hope to bring Pakistan team in the top 10 countries in Asia.

It’s a massive task and it won’t be easy but the PFF need our support – and not undue criticism. They’ve done best what can be done given the meagre resources Pakistan get through FIFA’s aid and sports grants by the government.

The truth is, football in the country can’t grow until local football fans become fans of Pakistan football.

As far as Maradona is concerned, he should learn from Pele on how not to give outlandish statements and be a true gentleman.

As far as the AFA are concerned, it’s a case of sour grapes perhaps for Maradona as Argentina qualified for the 2014 World Cup under coach Alejandro Sabella with a stroll and are installed big favourites to win it in Brazil!