Pakistan football from nowhere to somewhere [The Nation]

Pakistan football from nowhere to somewhere [The Nation]

LAHORE – In an under developed country where we face a numerous challenges on day-to-day basis, the measurement of Pakistan football level of success during the last decade indicates that Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s efforts to develop and promote the game in the country have been bearing fruit.

According to PFF football development programme, the game has been promoted significantly and development can be clearly witnessed at all levels of football. The PFF has recently succeeded in earning ‘AFC’ Aspiring Award the Year 2013. With this aspiring achievement, it can be said that Pakistan football has taken off and from nowhere, it is now seen on the sports radar among top games in Pakistan.

The success is not a one-day process but it takes years of continuous hard work, dedication and professionalism. It requires a lot of structures to be put in place for which a regular monetary inflow is another basic ingredient. When the present regime took over, despite of poor financial condition, without infrastructure and having no organisational technical expertise, it started the journey of development from almost scratch.

The PFF under dynamic leadership of its president Syed Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat and secretary Col (r) Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi took multidimensional steps to promote the game in Pakistan. It was certainly not an easy task and needed day and night efforts to design the basic required framework, hence to address the issues and to bring Pakistan football to a respectable stage at regional and international level. A workable plan was chalked out in 2008 named as ‘Vision 2022’ which became the major reason for bringing Pakistan’s football from ‘nowhere to everywhere’.

The target set in the vision is to attain football ranking among the top 15 Asian countries by year 2020 which is although difficult yet still attainable obviously with the support of Pakistani nation and government. To get this goal, the green shirts have to improve their rankings in Asia from 34 to at least 10-15 and by doing so, they may find an opportunity to qualify for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 as it has been done by North Korea who had an honour to play the FIFA World Cup in year 2010 while standing on the Asian ranking chart at No 14.

Another encouraging historical boost in FIFA ranking has been witnessed recently when Palestine improved 71 grades in its world ranking from 164 to 93 in the month of June, 2014.

Here are some interesting facts to show Pakistan’s football upward growth. In 2005, Pakistan lost Iran by 14 goals to nil (U-14) whereas due to PFF’s effective youth development programmes, Pakistan played a 0-0 draw and in another match lost 1-0 against Iran in year 2013. Pakistan won gold medal in SAF Games football event in 2004 and 2006, also won SAFF U-16 gold medal in 2011.

The PFF started structured A-Division football league named as Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) launched in 2004, it also started structured B-Division football league named as Pakistan Football Federation League (PFFL) in 2004.
Coach education programme was also started in 2004, women football was started in 2005.

The green shirts qualified to next round of Olympics by beating Singapore in home and away matches in 2005. The PFF started youth development programme in 2006, referee education in 2006 resulting in maximum appointments abroad of PFF referees in international matches. The construction of 8 x FIFA Football Academies was started in year 2006, green shirts drew world cup qualifying match with Asian champion Iraq by 0-0 in 2007.

The formulation of first ever vision 2022 was worked out and launched in 2008, the development of club culture in Pakistan was started as a result of which KRL not only made historical move for next round of AFC President Cup 2013 but also played its final match which was a great honour for the country. Getting gratis/free services of highly-qualified two Bahranian coaches (Shareeda and Shamlan) thus resulting in saving of minimum of Rs 4 crore which is being diverted/spent for other football development activities.

The current PFF leadership has been doing tremendous work for the uplift of football at all levels. Women football in this regard is a good example. Apart from national women events, the national women football team has been given international exposure in SAFF Women Championship Dhaka, Bangladesh 2010 and SAFF Women Championship Colombo, Sri Lanka 2012.

Despite financial constraints and without any governmental or corporate support, the PFF has managed to provide extensive international exposure to all age level teams including U-13, U-14, U-16, U-19, U-22, U-23 and senior national football teams by arranging approximately 205 international matches in last 10 years.

After terrorist attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, Pakistan simply had become a ‘no go area’ for the foreign sports teams and players but the PFF arranged international events in the country in which countries like Palestine, Bangladesh, Iran, Sri Lanka, UAE, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan had participated which helped to promote a soft image of the country in rest of world.
Due to personal relationship between PFF president Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat and FIFA and AFC presidents, the FIFA had allotted over Rs 40 crore for constructing eight football academies in Pakistan.

This is unprecedented for any other sports body in Pakistan. These projects, named as football houses, are purposefully designed to fulfill all relevant needs and requirements. The projects at Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar have been completed with boarding/lodging facilities for 100 players and officials while at Karachi and Peshawar, standard size football grounds are also a part of the academies/football houses.

Five other such projects are under construction at Quetta, Abbotabad, Sakkur, Jacobabad and Khanewal. The PFF officials in this regard say that these state-of-the-art football houses/academies will not only be facilitating the football players, officials and organisers technically, but will also uplift the game of football in the country, thus will pave way in the beginning of a revolution in football in Pakistan.

But with all such achievements, the PFF leadership has to pay more attention towards grassroots and youth football development, otherwise, the huge investment in building of the FIFA academies may go wasted. In this connection, it is strongly recommended that the AID-27 programme, which was run by the PFF for a certain period and then stopped, must be re-started at least in the cities where the FIFA Academies are being built.

At the same time, Punjab government, which is spending a lot for the promotion of sports in the province, should come forward and join hand with the PFF to establish a modern football academy by allocating a piece of land in Lahore where the PFF has its secretariat. With the provision of such facilitates, the time will not be so far when Pakistan nation will see its players playing in the world famous football leagues and Pakistani football will be somewhere in the world of football.