by Alam Zeb Safi
MARDAN: Former Pakistan coach Tariq Lutfi has said that the football authorities of the country should focus on home-grown players which will help the nation grow in international circuit.
“Pakistan will be benefited if the authorities focus on local brand. There is not much quality gap between the home-grown players and foreign-based players but you will get benefit of the commitment of the local brand, an element which is direly missing in the foreign-based players,” Lutfi told ‘The News’ in an interview after Pakistan’s dismal show in the four-nation event in Mauritius and SAFF Cup in India where Pakistan lost all their three matches, the worst ever performance from the Green+shirts in the history of the biennial event.
“We also played in the past against the best side of India and we not only played with them close matches but have also beaten them,” said Lutfi, a big name in Pakistan’s coaching as he has coached Pakistan men’s senior and women’s senior teams.
He also remained coach of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC).
Lutfi asked the authorities why they left out Pakistan’s key players. “On what basis did you ignore Pakistan’s major players?” Lutfi questioned.
“We have some major players. I am surprised that some ageing foreign-based players are being given opportunities but I ask the authorities where is Saddam Hussain, who was Pakistan captain and was performing so well. They ignored Waqar, a stopper from KRL, they ignored Qadeer who was in fine form and Bilal was also in good shape. No one makes them accountable and they are setting a bad example,” Lutfi said.
He explained why he is against playing foreign-based players. “I am basically against foreign-based players. The quality of the players who come and join Pakistan team, if you look at their matches so they seem well-built. The way they have started inviting foreign players in such a large number it will be of no use. If they are not kept in the camp for a long period with the local players then it will yield no result,” he said.
“We don’t say that foreign players have no quality but they cannot bear the load of Pakistan camp and it means that their induction in the team is not fruitful,” he said.
“The issue is that the authorities are doing injustice. They are stubborn and whatever anybody says has no impact on them. There is no big expert or any big player sitting in the PFF headquarters. I think Shehzad Anwar is the only one in that setup who is attached with football. We don’t know what kind of deal is made with the foreign players and on which tickets they come'” Lutfi said.
“If Kuwait and Lebanon play in the SAFF Cup it shows that these nations are facing decline and are trying to revive their teams. If despite bringing in so many foreign-based players you lose against them by four goals then it has no benefit,” he said.
“I recall the SAFF Cup held in Karachi. Tanvir and Zesh Rehman, a foreign-based defender, were playing. Tanvir played much better than Zesh. Local players are more committed. Foreign-based players think they will get injured if they make their best effort,” he recalled.
“They (authorities) are doing injustice with Pakistan. Why will these players (local) play football if there is no future in the game? If they have brought in nine foreign-based players today then tomorrow they will bring in 12. And if they say that they will qualify for the World Cup then I think it’s just a dream if the system is not corrected,” he said.
He also backed Waheed who was not given enough chance on the twin tours recently. “Waheed is a player of such a calibre which at one time was Kaleemullah but I don’t know why he was ignored despite being present on the bench. If you treat your player like this it will shake his confidence and it then takes some time to come out of the pressure,” he said.
He said that it would be of much benefit if PFF elections were held. “I am not interested in any kind of politics but I think it would be much better if elections were held as the elected body would take such decisions which would help Pakistan football,” Lutfi signed off.