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"Just field 11 boys from Lyari"


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Watching the SAFF Championship closely, it is pretty clear that South Asian football is no spark of brilliance and has many a mile to go. -File Photo

"A good goalkeeper is as valuable as a striker that's going to score 20 to 25 goals a season," former Arsenal goalkeeper John Lukic had said in an interview. But it is cause for concern when your keeper seems head and shoulders above the rest of your line-up.

Jaffar Khan, Pakistan's national captain and goalie, has been brilliant in his side's opening matches in the ongoing South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship; however, his skill has largely been on display not because the opponents have showcased extraordinary skill but mainly due to the inability of his teammates.

Unfortunately, the defensive line alone is not responsible for this as the mid-fielders have lost shape (despite Pakistan playing a 4-5-1 game) consistently and any push forward by the greenshirts has ended fruitless.

Watching the SAFF Championship closely, it is pretty clear that South Asian football is no spark of brilliance and has many a mile to go. But it is hard to imagine that this is the best Pakistan has to offer. The most glaring shortcomings are an inability to build up play from the back and keeping possession. The latter points to a lack of confidence amongst players in not only their ability but also that of their teammates. Clearing the ball, when close to your box, is not a bad practice but making a habit out of it gives you no control of the proceedings.

Evident in Pakistan's game against Maldives, more so than Bangladesh, was the ability of the opponent to control the game through short, quick passing. Pakistan were left wanting, and the few occasions they did manage to build up play, a lack of coordination between players left the ball in no-man's land.

Besides the ability to score goals even from a close range, the other element missing from Pakistan’s game is vision, which comes mostly when a group of players train and play together for an extended period of time. But when that is not possible, the players should be part of equally good domestic setups where each player is at par with the others as far as skill-level is concerned.

This could maybe reopen the debate of whether expatriate players should be included in the team. While these foreign-based players do not get enough time to gel with the team, it is obvious that the team needs them. The domestic league is the most obvious criminal and unless it is overhauled, Pakistan will keep fielding a lop-sided team. Missing a pass is one thing, but failing to even connect with ball when your left flank sets up the ball for you to shoot, is shameful.

Watching their previous games and those of  the world’s top teams on video can aid with improving close control and evaluating passing and shooting options. It was surprising to see Maldives offering so much space up the field and Pakistan not making runs or passing the ball to open players.

Serbia's Zavisa Milosavljevic, Pakistan's new coach, obviously needs time to scout and feed decent players into the team, but it is a wonder how the some of the current players in the team have made it in national colours.

Organising Pakistan's game will be his biggest challenge so as to avoid situations when a player is almost challenging his own teammate to get possession of the ball. It is situations like these that often prompt statements like: "Just field 11 boys from Lyari or we should just stick to cricket."

The greenshirts could also do with better fitness, a lack of which was on display in the second halves of both of their games. It is a major impediment for Pakistan and has also led to the undoing of the national hockey team.


Taimur Sikander is Sports Editor at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (26) Closed

Ovais Dec 05, 2011 06:54pm
its amazing to see that you understand the dynamics of professional football .. Unlike cricket where only fielding may be a team sport it is mainly individual ,. but football is all about team and team works .. International teams therefore have less compatibility than clubs . the problem with Pakistan is that we use cricket policies for football and when u see impressive tackles u select that guy , not realizing the second defenders placement which may be there for protection . As a person who understands the dynamics of football its very important for the two center backs to have working combination when one charges other goes for cove .. and coming to the illusive subject of offsides , i have never seen a proper line in Pakistan either clubs or at national level .. ther is one hero who is ahead to charge at every single opportunity . I am sorry to say but my personal experience with the lyari guys has not been very good have found them less willing to play as a team and there are one or two miscreants who love to be ronoldo .. all said and done football doesnt require top 11 players on field all together since that will be of no use ... it requires sixteen(21 for international) fit , good players ... who work as a team and understand the dynamics of one another. It also needs a leader who arranges every one in order .. shouts at them (not usually the captain) and get things in order ( which is the responsibility of a keeper ) a disciplined defence is one of the most difficult ones to penetrate through (example Manunited) while an undisciplined defence with big names and stars can be easy victums ( Real Madrid )
ovais Dec 05, 2011 06:57pm
btw i was talking abt pre mourinho Real Madrid
Pakistani fan Dec 05, 2011 07:38pm
The way Pakistani players, they are no where near to world class football. Infact it would be a long time before they can win the SAFF championship. By the way our cricket is also pretty bad forgetting recent series. I think our arch rivals India are playing a wonderful football ( might win also). Not to forget they qualified for AFC Asia cup and got exposed to likes of Australia , Bahrain and Republic of Korea. On a lighter note if Veena Malik can come and cheer our soccer players, they might do a trick or two.
MOIZ UL HASAN Dec 05, 2011 09:44pm
I totally agree with you Taimur. And we can not expect much from the new coach too, since he took the office just 2 weeks ago.. Fitness level of players, particularly Pakistan players, was extremely low, as this was thier second match; no wonder what is going to happen in next few matches. Nevertheless, greenshirts are not much familiar with Turf, all the time they had been playing on grass and turf is quite different. There should be one or two internationally built turf grounds.
Nadeem Jamali Dec 05, 2011 10:04pm
What is the relevance of this article to Lyari? Is it some kind of a joke? How many players in Pakistan's team are from Lyari? Or do you have to have straight hair and be lighter skinned to represent Pakistan?
Fahad Dec 05, 2011 11:49pm
Dislike. Maybe u havent watched previous matches of Pakistan like many others but Pakistan has improved alot. Dont compare our team with EPL / La Liga. if u expect soo much, then why dont u come and help Pakistan. Try joining in the team.
fan Dec 06, 2011 12:19am
good article...the coach also needs to be given some time which the federation mihgt not do. Pakistan's next match against former coach roberts' nepal side should be an interesting one considering the fate of the team depends on it...Best of luck Pakistan team.
Usama Khattak Dec 06, 2011 12:35am
The problem you explained is not basically of Pakistan national team. It is the whole country football clubs problem. The just tell the defenders that their job is to clear the ball, strikers to score goals and the midfielders has to do a lot of running. The most players that Pakistan gets are from the domestic football. If the mentality of clubs about the game is not change into a team game then Pakistan has a long way to reach the level of even middle east country let alone the best ones.
Jazib Dec 06, 2011 12:45am
A well written article for most part except for the 'we should just stick with cricket' part. There is no need to mention such a negative comment. If you have been following Pakistani football for the past few years, you may notice that Pakistan has considerably improved their game - for once, they were attacking and playing to win rather than being defensive. However, it is a shame how that youngster missed an open-net goal (there was no need to shoot first time with a left foot when the ball needed to be played to the right and there was plenty of time for controlling the ball).
Ahsan, Sweden Dec 06, 2011 01:26am
I think we have to wait for ages before we get a football team that can be compared with teams like Maldives, Bangladesh. Thanks to our corrupt politicians.
ali Dec 06, 2011 02:58am
Simply put soccer is not our forte.
FootballPakistan.Com Dec 06, 2011 09:39am
That's all fine and good, but what guarantee do we have that the 11 Lyari players dont also indulge in the fine arts of gutka, paan, cigarettes, and charas? those things wreck havoc with the fitness and physical development of players. Lyari may be a hub of football in Pakistan, but it requires a whole new system in place to help players develop and become genuine professionals rather than rag-tag mix of amateurs.
Jambo Dec 06, 2011 02:59pm
the team needs at least 20 years to be competitive.....forget 11....even 5 boys from lyari will do!
Rizvi Dec 06, 2011 03:08pm
Sounds like you are making a generalization!! with a mindset like yours i think we will forever have a team without proper representation from across the country! I think Lyari is mentioned figuratively....and there is no doubt that the whole country needs an overhaul as far as football is concerned
Sahir Baloch Dec 06, 2011 04:16pm
let me add to the article that, even a coach and few players from Lyari can change the destiny of Pak football but the pity is that let alone making them play in the team, Pakistanis make fun of them and usually pass negative comments regarding them which is disgusting..
Mansoor Iqbal Dec 06, 2011 04:58pm
I had no idea Pakistan had a football team. I was pleasantly suprised, well played Pakistan and Congrats to Nepal for entering the final four.
FT Dec 06, 2011 07:31pm
Pakistan has what it takes to be in world cup but like everything else we ourselves are guilty for our down fall. Small steps but sure steps are needed
jim Dec 07, 2011 12:52am
I think it is all CULTURAL. In Pakistan, people like to go and see clean cut and well dressed cricketers. Have you ever checked the crowd at a fotball game. Football is for real man---who can run for 90 minutes unlike cricketers who need refueling (like lunch break) twice a day.
Imran Dec 07, 2011 01:04am
If the guys from lyari knows and play football professionally than why now field all 11 from their, for surely the only reason for someone to be in the team has to be the skill he carries and nothing else. And the national coach should at least watch them play and than decide for himself.
Flag Football Dec 07, 2011 01:20pm
That's a tough call, imho, it's never too late t develop talents and skills. We've got to start somewhere.
Ahmed Dec 07, 2011 01:39pm
Have u even seen one dude from Lyari? its people like you, who know a little english and how to use the internet, that think that they have somehow become experts at everything! I had the pleasure of checking out a game in Lyari, and mind you, they are not less than any English Premier league footballers that people like you like to idolize. Wearing MANU shirts make you all 'cool', get a life! If they are given a chance, and allowed to be trained by professional coaches, then there is no reason why they cannot achieve the zenith of this profession.
Ehtisham, Wah Dec 08, 2011 02:15pm
I think we should all play our role in the promotion of this lovely game in Pakistan, its evident our national team have many shortcomings but we shouldn't loose the hope. Insha Allah new coach will bring some positive changes and puts our team at least on right track. Well performed guy's keep it up, Bravo to Jadeed Khan Insha Allah he'll be our Cristiano!
FootballPakistan.Com Dec 11, 2011 06:36pm
I speak from experience Ahmed. I have been involved with Pakistani football as a freelance journalist and activist since 2003 (as my website names suggest) and anyone with an in depth insight of football in Karachi will sadly agree with me. Karachi football is stuck in the past. Talent is useless unless you have a system that nurtures and improves players through hard work, innovation, exposure, and dedicated coaching from an early age.
Cyrus Howell May 19, 2012 04:13pm
Rugby and Football have become more popular in Ireland because it is a rule of thumb to never put a bat or a club in an Irishman's hands.
Cyrus Howell May 19, 2012 04:15pm
“A good goalkeeper is as valuable as a striker that’s going to score 20 to 25 goals a season,” former Arsenal goalkeeper John Lukic had said in an interview." = Great goalkeepers are born and not made.
Cyrus Howell May 22, 2012 03:38am
Nepal loves football, but they usually don't do that well.