It’s time to invest in Pakistan football [TNS]

It’s time to invest in Pakistan football [TNS]

by Alam Zeb Safi

Following the government’s initiative to revive departmental sports, it’s a very important phase for all those departments who want to restore their football teams.

This time they will need to adopt the most professional approach in rebuilding their sides for the future national events whatever will come in the next few months. If they go with an ordinary approach and stick to the conservative culture to re-establish their teams then it will be of no use.

Things have changed now. It’s not the age of awarding lifetime jobs to footballers but to make them financially strong with season-based contracts or annual deals which should be of more value for the players and much better even than their regular jobs. But one thing should be taken into consideration that the footballers’ medical insurance should be ensured in the fresh contracts.

Definitely departments will now go for contract-based jobs to their players and no institution will now want to be caught in any regular and life-time deal with any player which is of no use in sports anymore. This is the time to put money into the football market and make it more competitive.

We have seen in the past that footballers with regular jobs often became complacent and did not work on themselves, on their fitness and often lacked a professional approach. When they will be given such healthy and money-oriented contracts, with some tough clauses included in the texture, then I think this will make them much fitter and more active as players and they will always become more focused.

This sort of approach will help football eventually in the country which looks too conservative in its approach in handling sports. Even departments will have to act as professional clubs in future as they will have to transform themselves into clubs in the light of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Club Licensing regulations.

Some work has already been done on the AFC Club Licensing but the area needs more focus from the authorities in coming months so that maximum departmental teams, who have a solid history in football development, could be transformed into professional clubs.

Some will agree and some will not but those who will not agree will have no space in the system then. Obviously, it’s hard to digest these things in Pakistan’s culture where state-owned teams have been the mainstay of sports development but we will need to come out of the shell and face the reality of the 21st century.

Some international footballers also want such a system where jobs in the departments should be on seasoned-based or annual-based contracts with substantial remunerations on offer.

Anything less productive for the footballers will be declined by the players who aim to rise high and who are capable of serving the country on the international circuit.

It’s time for departments to devise such a strategy so that they could help football in the future. Definitely age-group teams will have to be kept besides establishing their own state-of-the-art pitch facility.

So, I think it’s a decisive phase for the departments to set their direction. Even some experienced coaches who know about modern football also want season-based and annual-based contracts for footballers as a better option.

But as I said earlier full medical coverage and other necessary shields must be provided to the players besides decent salaries so that the players could focus on their game only. If we evolve our system then definitely it will leave a healthy impact on the standard of football in years to come.

The FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee is expected to announce the National Football Challenge Cup in a few days and it will be the first event for departmental teams after the premier revived departmental sports in the country recently.

There is no solid chance of the Premier League this season and for next season all departments will have to come up with a highly renewed strategy into the football market and make its structure more viable and players friendly.

This will not be a job which can be done overnight and it needs time and slowly and gradually all departments will automatically be able to transform their recruitment system under a specific financial mechanism. And the results would definitely be highly productive.

Definitely departments will need legal assistance on various fronts but there is no other way to make the system highly productive. Hope we will see a better future for football in the country where millions of people are directly dependent on this much-sought-after sport. Hope for the best.

Meanwhile football in Pakistan is now again getting momentum. Following exposure to the women’s national team by fielding it in the SAFF Cup in Nepal recently the men’s team is also set to fly out of Lahore for Nepal next month to play a couple of international friendlies which are planned to be held from November 14 to 21 at a yet to be decided venue.

The men’s team after a six-week hard training at the Punjab capital is now on leave and will resume its training from November 3 for the Nepal tour. This will be after three long years that the national senior team will return to the international circuit.

Last time Pakistan featured in the World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia in the summer of 2019 where the country had lost both its matches held in Cambodia and Doha.

During the last seven years football activities suffered the most due to internal wrangling among various factions and the litigation process.

Now NC is on its way to hold the PFF elections. Currently, it is working on club registration and so far more than 4000 clubs have been registered through FIFA Connect programme.

In the next step clubs scrutiny will begin and we will see district level competitions in order to assess the situation of the clubs on ground. NC intends to finalise the electoral list for district elections by January 15. Hope the things go in the right direction. 

Published in The News on Sunday, 23 October 2022