by Alam Zeb Safi
The Bangabandhu SAFF Championship is in progress in Bengaluru, India. Pakistan went down to India 4-0 the other day in their opener with India’s skipper Sunil Chhetri scoring a hat-trick – two of his goals coming from penalties.
It was something unnatural to field a side for a high voltage showdown when the players had come a long way after more than 24 hours journey from Mauritius to Bengaluru.
They did not even find time to shave. They reached the hotel, took lunch hastily and went out to reach the venue in time as the game was to begin at 7pm PST.
Pakistan should not have played that game against India. They should have given a walkover. It does not happen in sports. How can players be fielded in a game when they are so tired after a long travelling? A team needs time to adjust before taking the field in an event.
Pakistan team passed, initially, through mental agony due to visa issue. And it was so much delayed that it denied Pakistan the opportunity to get some time to adjust to the local conditions.
Pakistan travelled via two airlines from Mauritius via Mumbai and at Mumbai Airport there was no one from All India Football Federation (AIFF) to receive Pakistan team and assist it and shift it to domestic flights. They took so much time at the immigration that one group missed its flight to Bengaluru. They had to take another flight to proceed and reached team hotel around 2:30pm. I think it was shabby treatment. Had there been an elected PFF it would have taken action and stopped the team from proceeding to Bengaluru. We should respect our team and our players and take care of their health also.
When I contacted a senior official of the PFF NC he told me that they couldn’t stop their team from playing against India because it was a big game. I asked him how the players could play after travelling for a full day. The official told me that they would see. But I knew his body language which lacked the kind of courage which is needed for taking stiff decisions at such a critical stage.
We lost 4-0. Had we given walkover nobody would have blamed us as our players were not in a position to play and that too against India.
As a nation we need confidence and we should take stiff decisions and should respect ourselves.
When this piece appears Pakistan will have faced Kuwait in their second show of the SAFF Championship as the game was scheduled to be held on June 24. And the result of that match will have decided the fate of the Green-shirts in the biennial event.
Pakistan have been playing nine foreign-based players in the side for the last few days but so far no goal has been scored by anyone of them in the four matches which the brigade played during the last few days.
The 2026 World Cup Qualifiers are scheduled in October and the management is building a side for that vital assignment.
The authorities will have to decide which foreign-based players should be part of the future assignments. I have seen that there are a few good foreign-based players who need to be part of the future events but there is a question mark on the majority of the players of Pakistan origin whose contribution to the team during the last few games has not been praiseworthy.
Our local players are very good. We have left out some solid players. We need to pick them. We can also bring in a couple of experienced home-grown players. It will help build a good team ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers.
The big issue Pakistan is facing is that it has not yet resumed its Premier League which could have proved productive in scouting top talent.
In order to gain short-term goals the authorities have started relying more on foreign-based players. To achieve high goals we will have to decide how to manufacture our team.
The other issue is that Pakistan team should have a skilled and highly experienced manager which will help tackle the issues well.