KARACHI: When K-Electric (KE) make their first appearance in an international competition next month, Majid Shafiq will be providing all the technical, tactical and strategic know-how from the dugout.
After securing their maiden Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) title last season, KE will be playing the playoff qualifiers for the AFC Cup and England-based Majid will be their head coach for the assignment in Bhutan from Aug 9-15.
And despite this being KE’s first tilt at an AFC event, the importance of making an impression on the continent is not lost on Majid.
“We want to do well despite the fact that it will be a new experience for most KE players,” Majid, who arrives here on Friday to kick-start a three-week training programme with the side, told Dawn in a telephonic interview on Tuesday.
Having heavily invested on the team in recent years including the signings of Nigerian duo Oludeyi Abayomi Sunday and Wilson before acquiring the services of England-based Pakistani origin players Shani Abbasi and Irfan Khan earlier this month, KE certainly wouldn’t want to be pushovers on their Asian debut.
They face hosts Druk United and Khoromkhon of Mongolia in Group ‘A’, needing to win the group in order to reach the playoffs for Asia’s second-tier club competition.
But Majid — a FA [Football Association] International coach — isn’t under pressure as he prepares to train a side in Pakistan for the first time.
“I’m not under pressure,” he said, admitting he wants to leave behind a coaching legacy in the country. “I’m coming with a plan to improve the team technically, physically and mentally. And I’m sure we’ll get good results.”
A problem, however, could be dealing with the altitude in Bhutan. KE are holding their training session here, barely a few metres above sea level, while Bhutan — a country of mountain hamlets — almost 2,200 metres above.
“It would have been preferable if we had an altitude training camp but it takes at least five or six months for the body to fully adjust and we had just three weeks for the camp,” said the 42-year-old Majid who did his Masters in Sports Science.
“Now, though, we have to work our way around smartly. We need to conserve energy whilst playing there so that the players don’t get drained very quickly.”
During his coaching licenses, Majid spent time at Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam and he admits he’s a fan of their philosophy of Total Football.
“That is a highly technical philosophy but I have very short time to make KE players adapt to that,” said the former academy director of Stalybridge Celtic — a Manchester-based club which plays in the sixth-tier of English football.
“However, I’d like the team to play with greater attacking prowess and make full use of the goal-scoring chances.”
Majid, though, isn’t looking too far ahead though and remains coy about his future with KE if the side advance to the playoffs and into the AFC Cup.
“Right now, the focus is on helping KE develop its football philosophy,” he said. “If we reach the playoffs and further, I’ll see how I can contribute to the team. Right now, I’m coming here for two big matches — matches that will go down in KE’s history and propel them forward.
“There is a big difference in playing against teams on the continent and playing against teams in Pakistan so this will definitely help the players grow. I’m here to leave a legacy that would help football in Pakistan grow further.”
Published in Dawn, July 22th, 2015