"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Iqbal_Hadi_Zaidi
Full Name: Iqbal Hadi Zaidi
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It is a different kind of challenge but I think I can help Pakistan football by bringing them up in the rankings: Graham Robert.—Photo by White Star/Arif Ali


Pakistan to face Oman in Asian Games football


LAHORE: Graham Roberts, Pakistan football team’s newly appointed consultant believes that an increase in the country’s international fixtures can go a long way in improving its Fifa ranking from the lowly 162.


Roberts, who has signed an initial two-month contract with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), was unveiled at PFF’s headquarters in Lahore on Thursday.


The 51-year-old former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur star believes that some of the local footballers are more talented than those playing in English football leagues but termed his latest appointment as a challenge.


“I had options in England with two lower-league clubs but this (Pakistan) was more than an ambition for me,” Roberts told reporters at the unveiling ceremony at Fifa House.


Winner of two FA Cups and a Uefa Cup with Spurs, Roberts has had two stints in football coaching with English League clubs Yeovil Town FC and Clyde FC.


“It is a different kind of challenge but I think I can help Pakistan football by bringing them up in the rankings.”


Roberts said it was a ‘welcome surprise’ for him to see the talent of Pakistani footballers but said there is room for improvement, where his job comes into play.


“We can guarantee that the team will play good football. The local coaches have done a fantastic job with the boys and I want to prepare the final bits now” Roberts said.


With his initial stint set to be two months long, Roberts is eying the upcoming Asian Games as his first target with the national under-23 football team.


Though bordering on guarded optimism, Roberts also vowed to bring international football teams to the country.


While Roberts arrived in Pakistan barely 48 hours before his unveiling, he had enough time to mingle with the Asian Games squad training in Lahore.


The Englishman singled out better training pitches as the most important change on the road to improvement for Pakistan football.


In a country where there are more cricket fans than the entire population of England, Roberts faces a stiff challenge to work his miracle in the span of 60 days.


Despite having time, conditions and facilities against him, Roberts is confident that his vast experience will help the national team and is hopeful of extending his stay in Pakistan following the Asian Games.


“I hope it to be longer because I do love the place,” Roberts told the media.


Arriving in the country at a time when no international teams are ready to play here, Roberts said he had ‘no security concerns whatsoever.’


In a promising first interaction with Pakistani media, Roberts said he will also try to introduce young Pakistani footballers to English football clubs through internships and other training options.


Roberts’ arrival comes as a much needed for the PFF, as a UK based company is financing his services to Pakistan football.


Now football but what about Cricket & Hockey?

I am as good a Pakistani as anyone else can claim and boast of and, therefore, now I will comment about our sports, or more correctly major sports, but before anything is penned I wish that my words must be read in their true prospective and must not be construed, painted, tinged and twisted otherwise under any circumstances unless you are prejudiced and anti to me.

Dawn titled, ‘Graham Roberts promises to lift Pakistan football’ which is quite a heartening news and I am with you praying for his success in his this new challenge and there should not be any doubt that our boys (don’t we have ladies team?) will not earn laurels in football at least at Asian level if not Olympic. The new coach who hails from United Kingdom has lot of experience in coaching and though he has come for just 60 days assignment I am pretty confident that our boys will come up to our expectations and raise our heads in the game in the coming days. The coach has praised the level of our players and had no reluctance even to pronounce that we do have talents and some of our players are even better than those who play the game in his own country.  He has also hinted that he will even try to see that some of our players could be sent to play in UK as well in some club matches.

However, it must be remarked here that on one hand we must provide him all the facilities and logistics he needs to groom our team and on the other hand he must be quite free and independent in training and selection of the players devoid of any influence, pressure, commands and or even threats. At times it has been noticed that the foreign coaches are not given all the facilities which were promised at the time of engagement or they do not get whole hearted support and help from those who matter. It is our sheer bad luck that even in sports we try to pick and choose not purely on merits but on personal choices which, as such, has proved quite disastrous not once but many a time and we still didn’t mend ourselves to shun the practice. I wish that it will be not be repeated and practiced in football at this point of time otherwise not only Graham but my nation too will be much too much aggrieved and heart broken. 

Coming back to my caption, may I ask, our President Asif Ali Zardari in particular and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Gillani in general to tell the nation as to what action, if any, they have taken against the highly paid officials of our hockey and cricket teams since in both games we have earned nothing but blot for our country? I am neither a statistician nor even a sportsman to remember by heart as to when did we lift a cup last time either in cricket or hockey but yet I say with confidence that in recent past we have been hooted instead. Please at least for my sake, spare a few moments and go through our newspapers and just look yourself at the latest result either of hockey or cricket or both and you will yourself know the ground realities of both the games.

I do very well understand that in any tournament whether played at locality, town, city, provincial, national, regional or even international level, just one team, irrespective of the game concerned, will only lift the up and this is very much true with no contradiction and or exception whatsoever so far as our hockey or cricket is concerned. Now relying on this analogy if you justify our defeats in hockey and cricket I simply cannot be against you otherwise I will be contradicting the internationally reckoned game analogy but let me still remind you that all defeats are not equal in any case. Some defeats are honorable whereas some are humiliating and perhaps this is the very right and ripe opportune for me to leave it to your own conscious to decide which category our defeats in hockey and cricket fall. Once we had been world leaders in both the games but then we started rolling down and down and the result is that at this point of time, I am truly ashamed, not just sorry or even heart-broken, to see such humiliation whether it is hockey or cricket or both.

Did we ever think even for an academic discussion if not otherwise as to how much money we have invested in cricket and hockey for over the past ten years, if not more, and what we have gained against the expenses incurred by us in hockey and cricket for the same period of time? Needless to mention, for each and every activity, whether academic, social, economic, political including even sports almost all of us knowingly and unknowingly calculate all plus and minus related to the activity before taken a final decision. Of course, some time calculated risk is taken even when one is in negative but it may be limited to once, twice or maximum thrice but not like what we are experiencing in cricket and hockey. Allah only knows how much money we have already burnt on cricket and hockey and what we gained in return.

Let me join you in prayers to wish the best of luck for our football team so that our lost prestige is restored to some extent, and inshaallah, if it comes true then I opine that we should disband both hockey and cricket and instead their funds and facilities be diverted to football which, as such, will give it a tremendous boost, impetus and new vigor tinged with due respect and recognition.


With my honest and solemn prayers

Sincere Iqbal Hadi Zaidi / Former Diplomat / Kuwait.

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