KARACHI: Pakistan’s renowned football coach Tariq Lutfi says it must be a dream come true for the footballers who will be representing Pakistan in the inaugural edition of Socca World Cup in Lisbon, Portugal, next month.
Lutfi, who has coached Pakistan’s men and women teams, said that Leisure Leagues Pakistan (LLP) must be appreciated for making it possible for a Pakistan team to feature in the event, which begins on September 23.
LLP has appointed Lutfi to coach Pakistan Socca squad during the last couple of weeks of the team’s training. Lutfi will also accompany the team to Lisbon for the 32-team event. Lutfi praised LLP for organising small-side football throughout the country, which in the beginning seemed a difficult task. “Trunkwala Group (that owns LLP) spread a brilliant network for small-side football in the country,” Lutfi said.
He added that holding such events was difficult for Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) due to lack of funds. “But LLP managed to spread the network and provided a platform to those who want to play football even if they live in remote areas,” said the coach.
Pakistan are in Group ‘B’ along with Spain, Russia and Moldova. Lutfi said that football is played among eleven players but small- side football provides basics to the players. “All renowned coaches in the world who prepare eleven-member teams use this format for training.
“I believe all players playing in Leisure Leagues events will be able to develop their skills and these players can go up to play Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) national events and play for bigger teams. The skills the players learnt in Leisure Leagues will certainly help them perform well in eleven-a-side format,” Lutfi said.
“It is difficult to say how we will perform in Lisbon since our players have played only club-level football,” he said. Lahore Champions ICAW (I Can and Will) won Leisure Leagues National Championship to qualify for the Socca World. Four players have been added to the squad: one each from the other three semi-finalists and one player from Pakistan team that featured in Street Child World Cup.
“We need to understand that our players will be playing in such an event for the very first time against renowned football names of the world like Spain and Russia. It is in itself a very big honour and achievement for us,” said Lutfi.
“When we go for the second time in the World Cup, we will go to play competitive games. After evaluating things in the second stage, in the third phase, when Pakistan go to feature in the third edition, only then will we be able to play for the best results possible,” he said. He added, however, that the players had been training well and had improved their fitness. He said he expected the team to perform well in the inaugural event as well.