Saqib wants big football events to attract attention of public, media [The News]

Saqib wants big football events to attract attention of public, media [The News]

by Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: Pakistan football team premier goalkeeper Saqib Hanif on Saturday said that once the system gets settled in the country Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) should hold big events on the pattern of Pakistan Super League (PSL) to show to the nation the real potential of the sport which is followed by a huge population.

“There is a huge talent in Pakistan and there is also a great craze of football among the public. The federation will have to hold major national events on the pattern of Pakistan Super League (PSL) and Geo Super League if we are to grow the sport,” Saqib told ‘The News’ in an interview from Maldives.

“Such big events will enable us to remind to the public that football is also one of the potentially glorious disciplines in which Pakistan has a lot of talent,” he added.

Saqib has been playing professional league in Maldives for the last few years. Currently he is attached with the TC Sports Club which also played a game in the AFC Cup against a Bangladesh club in Dhaka last month.

Saqib, who plays for Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), is in quarantine in Male and is also looking to return once he gets a flight.

Saqib said that state and media will have to join federation to promote football in Pakistan. “The federation cannot do anything single-handedly. It needs support of media and government. How we will attract sponsors. We will do so if we have media support,” Saqib was quick to add.

“If we have media and public following we will get more sponsors. We will have to show that football is also a popular game and is crowd-pulling and for that efforts will be needed at every level,” Saqib said.

“Once we get a professional league we will not need to go to any country to play. It will be a huge morale booster for Pakistani players if we have our own pro league,” he said.

Saqib said that football in Pakistan and Maldives cannot be compared. “Maldives are well ahead of Pakistan. In Maldives the league teams have academies in which from Under-11 to Under-21 boys are being trained. This is compulsory for playing in the league. They organise Milo Cup, Under-13, Under 16 single round league and then under-19 and under-21 events. Their under-19 and under-21 feed players to the senior team. They are producing huge talent. Their national team get already well-prepared players,” Saqib said.

“Maldives league is very strong. Pakistan is far behind. If we compare individual players of Pakistan and Maldives, then Pakistani players are physically, skill-wise and mental-wise very good. But the issue with Pakistan is that it lacks facilities. Look at Maldives they won the last SAFF Cup and it’s a big achievement. This is because of their hard work,” Saqib said.

He said departments in Pakistan must have strong and professional football management. “Our departmental teams need strong and professional management with knowledge of football. See I am lucky and am very grateful to my SSGC coach Tariq Lutfi who supports me because he is professional,” he said.

He urged all Pakistan coaches to back their players and help them get space in foreign leagues so that they could hone their skills and gain confidence. “The big issue with us is that we don’t have agents. Coaches should back their players and send them to foreign leagues so that they could get experience. Our professional coaches should exploit their contacts with foreign coaches for the betterment of their players. This will help Pakistan football until we get our own pro league,” Saqib said.

He said that playing in Maldives league has made him more mature. “I have achieved top confidence and have developed my keeping. I am really enjoying playing in Maldives. Playing in a professional league plays a key role in a player’s growth,” he signed off.

Published in The News, 26 April 2020