“I’m Pakistani, but my country won’t play me.”  – Rehan Mirza

“I’m Pakistani, but my country won’t play me.” – Rehan Mirza

By Rehan Mirza (UEFA ‘A’ Licence candidate / Mansfield Town Youth Team coach)

There is no doubt that football within Pakistan is treated very highly. Football teams are created that do their best to focus on player development. So one wonders, why is it that the National team are constantly in such a poor state?

As a British-born Pakistani, I ventured into coaching almost a decade back. I chose to do my coaching badges and aim to go as high as I possibly can. Even while doing my licences, I still recognize that it is just a piece of paper that I will achieve at the end of the day. So what makes me a good coach? Experience, repetition, networking and working with other higher level associates in the same field. I would also assume that this criterion would work in most industries. Not with Pakistani football however.

To get the best out of yourself, you have to be alongside the best. Boxers never improve by fighting weekend boxers or local talent. They want the big boys. When I look at Pakistan football, it saddens me that development is at a stand still and has been so for many years.

Promises, lies and just re-assurances about a future plan is all that comes back. The question is how does the Pakistan national team get recognized?

Firstly, if a team is to compete at the highest level, then ultimately you would choose your best players. The World Cup has  started and if you ask each manager how they feel about their team, they would no doubt suggest that they have a strong squad. Why?

Because they have chosen quality. Take for instance Brazil.  They have players who play in the English, French, Spanish and other leagues. Does this help the players? Absolutely.

However, we now have the complete opposite philosophy in Pakistan. If you are not living in Pakistan, then you do not play for the National team. Worse still, they play a much younger team for the sake of their development. If I asked a Brazilian fan who supports their national team that their U=23 side will play against Germany’s 1st team.

What will their answer be? No fan would even bother attending to watch because player development SHOULD be age specific.

When I watch Pakistan play football, as a fan, I see headless chickens running around the pitch. As a coach, I see un-developed players.

Is it their fault?

Absolutely not. It’s the fault of individuals who select this low level of quality. Why select mediocre players when we already have better established players to choose from.

Within Europe, we may not have a huge pool of players to select from, but they are a damn sight better than what Pakistan has produced from within. Adnan Ahmed, Hassan Bashir, Mohammed Ali and many others to select from. All highly regarded, and have played against and amongst some very top level players. Zesh Rehman, another highly regarded player (only Pak player to play in the English premier league).

So why are these players not even getting a sniff to represent their country?

There seems to be an arrogance coming from the PFF to suggest that the quality they have within their own nation is good enough. You do not need NASA to produce a scientific formula suggesting that this statement is incredibly ridiculous. Common sense should do the job.

I have heard comments made to me suggesting that the 1st team do not perform any better WITH these foreign based Pakistani players. It’s an incredible statement to make. European football hosts an incredible pool of world talent, of which a good handful of players will not be at the World Cup.

Why? It is because their National teams were not good enough (Zlatan Ibrahimovic as an example, with Sweden not qualifying). Individuals do not make a team. 11 players make a team. However, there is no doubt that a few good talented players will no doubt make a healthy contribution. However, this is not even happening in Pakistan.

From all the Pak foreign based players, I would claim to have met most of them personally. I have also seen maybe 90% of them play competitively. As a coach doing my UEFA A licence and working with a professional English league club, I would hope that my opinion would be regarded as healthy.

My feeling is that a Pakistan national team WITHOUT these players is doomed. There is a long list of players who are attached to European football clubs that would jump at the chance of representing Pakistan. Its just sad that the arrogance coming from Pakistan is to do what they do best. Create poor coaches, poor players, bad facilities, etc. This is just improving on making things worse. Long term player development (LTPD) is a topic in itself. This is a separate matter altogether. This requires a much more prolonged duration of contact time with a player over many years. The PFF should not even touch on this for its 1st team.

To summarize, I can only send one message to the PFF, which I know is hard for them to do. And that is to swallow your pride and choose the better players rather than putting your hand on your heart, chanting the National anthem. Being patriotic doesn’t mean choosing only from within. It means doing the best for your Nation.