by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Football experts believe that the talent-rich Pakistan can qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2030 if a proper and concerted effort is made with state support and international standard infrastructure.
“It’s a must,” Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee chairman Haroon Malik told ‘The News’.
“Today there are 4.5 slots for Asia in the World Cup qualifiers while in 2030 there will be 8.5 slots which means these will almost double as 48 nations will be competing,” Haroon said.
“It requires a concerted effort with state support and infrastructure but 2030 should absolutely be the target,” said Haroon.
“The qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup will be in 2023 and definitely it’s an uphill task but if you have a five-year space and if you focus on youth development, identify 100 talented boys and keep them engaged for five years then the Shaheens can attain this,” Haroon said.
“But it requires concerted effort from everybody. We need international stadiums so that we could invite foreign nations. The PFF needs its own playing field. We could not make a ground of PFF in 74 years,” Haroon said.
Meanwhile, former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa said that it is very much possible if the right plan is made and properly executed with massive financial support.
“I think with the present system we cannot do this. Yes if the proper plan is made and executed then we have the chance to do so in 2030 or in 2034,” Essa told ‘The News’ from Chaman.
“If a pool of 1200 to 1500 young players is prepared and properly groomed then we can show the wonders as 48 teams will be competing then in the global event,” said the former playmaker.
He said that in the ongoing FIFA World Cup, Asian teams’ physical fitness was tremendous, adding they put the giants in great trouble.
“This belt is very fertile. Look, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia and Australia showed a lot of physical strength and they not only won matches but put top teams in deep agony.
They defended smartly and also got opportunities through counter-attacks. Yes, technical excellence is a long-term aspect. So we are also Asians and geographically we have exceptional talent in football in some areas and we can definitely one day be in the World Cup if the authorities plan properly,” Essa said.
Pakistan’s experienced coach Nasir Ismail said if the proper plan is made then Pakistan can reach close. “If with top infrastructure the next PFF, which will come as a result of elections next year, sets a goal, works on fast track and with professional approach then we can get very close,” Nasir told this correspondent.
“It will require the coming PFF to award professional contracts to players, keep high their life style, then anything is possible. Pakistan will need to at least rule SAFF region for a few years, then will need to penetrate gulf and if we keep playing persistently against teams like Singapore and Thailand and hold camps in Europe then the target is achievable,” said Nasir, who has served Pakistan senior team as assistant coach a few times.
“The authorities will also need to hire a top-level foreign coach. “If he works with the home-grown coaches and then these coaches work at the grassroots level and provide talent to the head coach then the things could change. We need infrastructure and boarding academies also,” said Nasir.