Football woes

Pakistani football has never had role models to inspire future generations of players.


Editorial February 20, 2014
spending on developing football at the grassroots level and patiently waiting for results could be a viable option. PHOTO: FILE

A former team manager of the Pakistan national football team recently said that the sport needed sponsorship in order to grow beyond the national level. Irfan Khan Niazi, who served as manager from 2006 to 2010, made a valid point as money is the main reason why no other sport, besides cricket has been able to make a sustainable mark for the country.

Pakistan is currently ranked 165th out of 207 countries listed in the Fifa World Rankings. Their low position is not just due to the national team’s poor show but also because of a limited set of international matches it takes part in. But to make the argument that the Pakistan football team has failed to get itself noticed internationally would be to skip a few gigantic steps and go onto the final act of a play. The fact is that even at the national level, Pakistani players lack the expertise to compete. This is not because they are not talented; this is because they have never had the chance to be nurtured into becoming better players.

All sports need role models, apart from reasonable facilities, to inspire future generations of players. Pakistani football has never had that. Football grounds, the few that exist, are often sub-standard. The sport is only pursued at the club level with few players making a mark. The Pakistan Premier Football League is one event where top clubs compete to decide an overall champion but this tournament is not enough to help players hone their skills and become better at the sport. For players to develop into good footballers, the sport needs to be adopted as a lifestyle. China has dominated many sports and that is because it makes sports a requirement for young people at an early age. Pakistan clearly lacks that attitude. Increasing funding and sponsorships might get the team more matches in the short term, but this is unlikely to improve its performance. However, spending on developing football at the grassroots level and patiently waiting for results could be a viable option.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2014.

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