Last year was perhaps one of the worst in Pakistan’s football history.
While in its press release, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) claimed it was ‘another successful year’ and the federation’s president Faisal Saleh Hayat stating the sport made significant progress, the facts, infact, point in the other direction.
Pakistan slipped 15 places to 171st in the Fifa team rankings in the 12-month period. The team failed to win even a single international match last year and flopped in every event it took part in. Domestic events were not prioritised and the football infrastructure remained stagnant.
Poor start to the year
Pakistan started its 2010 campaign in the SAF Games that took place in Dhaka when George Kottan was the head coach. The team was ousted in the first round with then-captain Muhammad Essa and his deputy Jaffar Khan announcing their retirement citing Kottan’s unwillingness to let them play their natural game. The decision also compelled the PFF to relieve the Austrian coach of his services before replacing him with Akhter Mohiuddin.
Year ends on the same note
Pakistan’s second and last international assignment was the Asian Games in November. The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) was reluctant to include football in the contingent but the team participated on a self-finance basis. However, it received plenty of thrashing and was unable to score a single goal in the three matches before heading home.
Add to the embarrassment, the PFF was unable to arrange any friendly match, despite tall claims of providing maximum opportunities of international experience to the national outfit. Lack of international matches is the main reason of Pakistan’s substandard performance and slump in international rankings.
Female outshone male counterparts
Female footballers grabbed more spotlight at the international level and the girls finished as the semi-finalist in the recently-concluded SAFF Championship.
However, at the domestic level the scenario remains the same. The PFF and the POA gave no serious attention to its development. The result was that the federation received a serious jolt when the sponsor for the Pakistan Premier League backed out of its five-year contract that was signed in 2009.
The federation did nothing to find another sponsor and the national tournament faded away, begging for attention. More importantly, the PFF changed the dates of the event from May to September and preferred to hold a private league in May under their official patronage, which failed to attract fans despite live telecast on a sports channel.
The POA made matters worse by excluding the sport from the National Games, citing security concerns. However, after protests, football was included when the Army took the responsibility of security.
The writer is a freelance sports columnist
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2011.