by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: Pakistan’s key midfielder Saddam Hussain has returned from a four-month stint in Bahrain but foresees a bleak future for Pakistan football in the absence of a professional league.
The 22-year-old footballer turned out in 20 matches for Isa Town Sports FC in Bahrain’s second division last year.
The former KRL and FC Dordoi player believes the international football community does not take Pakistani players seriously due to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) crisis that has left the sport in the country in turmoil.
“I went to Bahrain primarily because nothing was happening in Pakistan — it was all about the PFF crisis,” Hussain told The Express Tribune. “This experience has helped me understand football better.”
Hussain feels the players are even more up against the odds now that the country no longer has a professional league. “Everyone feels that Pakistan has no footballing talent, and now in the absence of the Pakistan Premier Football League, we have to struggle even harder to prove ourselves,” he added.
The midfielder thanked national head coach Mohamed Shamlan for his support and revealed that it was Shamlan who recommended him to clubs in Bahrain.
Hussain said that even a second-tier football club in Bahrain provides its players more facilities and a better standard of the game than the very best that Pakistan has to offer.
“Isa Town is a second-tier team, so I was surprised that even a lower division team has better coaches for every age group in academies than the ones we have for the Pakistan national team,” said Hussain. “Their emphasis is on youth development.”
Hussain added that he was being paid $1,500 per month in Bahrain — exceeding the wages of even the best paid footballers plying their trade in Pakistan.
“Football is a poor man’s game in Pakistan,” he said. “Most of us — the players who made it to foreign leagues — hail from humble backgrounds. Often we have nothing else but football. It gives us opportunities. However, surviving in Pakistan as a footballer is getting harder and harder.”