KARACHI, Dec 14: Former Pakistan soccer coach John Layton Saturday claimed nepotism, internal bickering among officials, and dirty politics were the main causes the sport was not flourishing in the country.

“Pakistan has promising bunch of players. But people here prefer personalities before sport. Lack of merit, favouritism, politics for power in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is not helping the cause of the game in this country”, Layton told Dawn before leaving for England.

The Englishman, sent here by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) under the development fund programme, left this morning after PFF decided against renewing his three-year contract following the suspension of AFC aid earlier this year.

The 51-year-old Briton was the most successful coach in Pakistan soccer history. Basically assigned by the AFC to train junior squads, Layton was equally good as senior team coach.

Under Layton’s command, Pakistan Under-19 and Under-17 squads qualified for Asian championship main rounds for the first time in the history of the game.

Layton trained the seniors after David Burns’s sacking and it was under his guidance the team secured the first-ever point and scored first goal at the World Cup qualifiers last year that helped Pakistan leapfrog from 195th to 182nd in the world ranking.

Layton spoke of his bitter three-year experiences with the inept PFF officials for the first time, saying football was suffering because of excruciating delays in decisions due to red-tape.

“Only few people are sincere with the game, while most of the officials care little for football. PFF administration was, at times, frustrating. Things can’t change if affairs are not run by professionals.

“There were always pressures from different quarters to accommodate favourite players in the squad. I always resisted these kind of moves, but I am sure this practice will resume after my departure,” he said.

Layton was only verbally told by Lahore-based executive secretary that he had been released, and got an official letter Friday from PFF addressed to the AFC stating he and senior team coach Jozef Herel had been released.

Layton, a qualified coach who had done English Football Association, FA, and UEFA coaching courses, said his work which he started three years ago from scratch would go down the drain after his departure.

“When I came here three years ago every thing was in a mess. I started from scratch. Now when I am settled and know the potential of each and every player I have to leave which will break the rhythm of the progress,” he said.

Although he felt he had established a base, he said the players still needed to understand the game to excel and stand besides higher ranking football playing nations.

“Players need hard work in several areas as they lack in long passing, defence, heading, crossing, while feeble shooting is the major grey area,” he remarked.

Layton suggested to have professionals in the PFF, involvement of the provincial associations, development plans, including separate budget for the provinces.

“Responsible people are required to run the management and there should also be accountability and checks and balances on the officials,” he opined.

Layton, who also conducted one AFC ‘C’ licence course each in Quetta and Peshawar, emphasised to have better coaches and infrastructure to expand the base of the game.

Although the coach had some bitter experiences, he said he would always remember the association with his trainees whom he termed an asset for Pakistan.

“There were a lot of bad people and hardships I faced during my stay. But I will always cherish the kind of response and respect I received from the players. I would love to come back to Pakistan if invited to return,” he said.

While the PFF tested Briton’s patience with their non- professional attitude, Layton became favourite among the players who rated him as the best coach Pakistan ever had.