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pakistan football, pff, graham roberts, PFF, pakistan football federation
-Photo by White Star (file)

SUFFERING quite obviously from the ostrich syndrome, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Congress meets on Monday with no specific plan or idea about how to deal with the biggest issue at hand — getting a proper and qualified coach for the national football team.

With their heads buried in the sand, both the federation President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat and his Secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan fail to see the need for acquiring good coaching expertise for uplifting the national football team in order to make some headway in one of the most important years of football activity just round the corner.

The year 2011 begins and ends with several challenges for the team such as the Asian qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics (Feb-March), the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers (March), the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers (June-July) and the 2011 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship (Nov-Dec).

But ironically the meeting agenda released to the press by the federation only mentions matters which are all lacking in importance when compared to the selection of a coach for the national team. It reads: “Beach soccer, the Vision Asia project, Karachi and Peshawar FIFA Goal Projects plus projects awarded to the PFF after the devastating floods, introduction of the men's inaugural National Futsal Championship, PFF Cup and National School Football Championship will be analysed when the PFF Congress, chaired by President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, will convene at Lahore's FIFA Football House on Monday, Dec 27, 2010, for its second of the two meetings of the year.

“The agenda features a wide range of topics, including discussions on the AFC/SAFF and PFF competitions that have taken place from July-Dec 2010 and those to come in the future, as well as the football activities related to eight member associations … the house will be given an update on the current status of preparations for the coming assignments.

Well, well, well … what exactly is the “current status of preparations for the upcoming assignments”? And doesn't reflecting on the past, even if it happens to be the past six month's performance, set off alarm bells inside the FIFA Football House?

A dull and lazy year with plenty of domestic tournaments had its moments when the PFF clashed with the government twice after football was left out of the Asian Games as well as the National Games''contingents. To prove their keenness for participation in the international event, the federation spent some nine million rupees from its own pocket and for inclusion in the National Games they turned it into political matter of being discriminated due to the federation president's being a part of the government opposition.

While the National Games entry is a completely different matter, the Asian Games inclusion posed a major problem for the PFF in the coaching department. Ignoring the two certified License-A coaches Nasir Ismail and Shahzad Anwar, they reached out to the tried, tested and failed Akhtar Mohiyuddin for the job. It wasn't that long ago when the man was fired by the PFF while still in midair on the flight back home following his disastrous 2007-2008 stint cut short by the team's dismal show in the SAFF Championship in Maldives in June 2008.

Meanwhile, the most experienced coaches of all here, Tariq Lutfi, was overlooked on the pretense of his not having the required qualifications from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) even though the man has served as coaching instructor for both FIFA and AFC and is confident that his qualifications from England, Germany, Brazil, etc., are enough to get him an honorary certification from AFC to do the needful. The PFF only saw him worthy of coaching the raw national girls' team, which he helped reach the semi-finals in the recently-concluded inaugural SAFF Women Football Championship.

There are other fine coaches to consider for the job, too, if only the PFF had the vision to do so. Who can undermine the potential of Khalid Butt, the Wapda coach, under whose guidance the department just bagged its eighth victory in the 2010 edition of the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL).

But the PFF after giving up on Bahrain's Salman Sharida who recently took the responsibility of coaching his own national team, seem to have forgotten about the Englishman Graham Roberts, too. The 51-year-old Roberts who during his playing days has had the honour of representing English clubs Southampton, Portsmouth, Rangers FC, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur as defender when he also won two FA and one UEFA Cup, had shown an interest in offering his coaching services in Pakistan. He even accompanied the national team to Guangzhou, China, as coaching consultant when he was brought here on a two-month trial basis by a European sponsor. But the PFF, though also impressed by his credentials and potential, throws up its hands when it comes to raising funds to pay the salary of a foreign coach like him.

So while a very willing and enthusiastic foreign coach awaits word from the PFF about whether he will be taken on board or not, the federation itself chooses to be penny wise and pound foolish on the matter of getting good coaching expertise for the national team.