Pakistan is a country that is very well known around the globe due to its excellence in sports like hockey, cricket, squash, tennis, and many others. But when it comes to football, that isn’t the case at all. Because football in Pakistan is pretty much undeveloped as compared to the other neighbouring countries as well as the European countries, there are plenty of reasons for this. In this blog, we will discuss these reasons as well as explore what is next for Pakistani football in the upcoming days.
Challenges in Pakistan Football:
There are several reasons why football is considered relatively undeveloped in Pakistan. Here are some key factors:
Pakistan lacks adequate football infrastructure, including stadiums, training facilities, and playing fields. The majority of existing facilities are outdated, poorly maintained, and insufficient in number. The lack of proper infrastructure makes it difficult for aspiring footballers to train and develop their skills.
Compared to other sports, football in Pakistan has received limited investment from both the public and private sectors. The lack of financial support hinders the development of professional leagues, grassroots programmes, coaching education, and talent identification initiatives. Without sufficient funding, it becomes challenging to create sustainable football structures and provide opportunities for aspiring players.
A cultural preference for cricket
Cricket is the most popular sport in Pakistan and enjoys widespread support and infrastructure. As a result, the majority of sporting resources, media coverage, and sponsorship deals are directed towards cricket. Football often struggles to compete for attention and resources, making it harder for the sport to thrive.
Lack of professional leagues
Pakistan has faced challenges in establishing and sustaining professional football leagues. While there have been attempts to launch domestic leagues like the Pakistan Premier League, they have faced issues with financial sustainability, a lack of proper governance, and limited audience interest. The absence of robust professional leagues hampers the growth of football and the development of talented players.
Limited international exposure
Pakistani football teams have struggled to participate in and qualify for international tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup. The lack of regular international exposure prevents players from gaining valuable experience, improving their skills, and competing against high-level opponents. It also limits the visibility of Pakistani football on the global stage.
Social and security challenges
Pakistan faces social and security challenges that impact the development of football. These challenges include issues like poverty, lack of access to education, political instability, and security concerns. Such factors can hinder the development of sporting infrastructure, talent identification programmes, and the overall growth of football.
Limited grassroots development
Grassroots development programmes are crucial for nurturing young talent and promoting football at the grassroots level. However, Pakistan has struggled to establish widespread grassroots initiatives. The absence of structured grassroots programmes, school-level competitions, and youth academies makes it harder for young players to start their football journey and receive proper coaching.
While football in Pakistan may face these challenges, there are efforts underway to address them and promote the development of the sport. It will require collective efforts from the government, football associations, the private sector, and the community to invest in infrastructure, establish professional leagues, improve coaching education, and create opportunities for aspiring players.
Pakistan is an underdeveloped country, and as discussed earlier, there isn’t even a single modern international-level football stadium in Pakistan or even a ground with European-level facilities like modern football field turf. But the lack of money due to the country being underdeveloped should not be considered the main reason for not having a single football stadium of international level because the Federation International Football Association (FIFA) has helped the Pakistani football federation a lot of times financially, and it is the Pakistani Government and federation of football who haven’t been able to use that money in the right and profitable way, but in fact that money has been served for personal facilities of the people having control of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) rather than being invested in Pakistani football, players, and the grounds who deserve it the most.
Such corruption cases have led Pakistan Football to receive several bans from international football, preventing them from participating in any football competitions in Asia as well as around the world. Those bans in the past years have damaged Pakistani football a lot, with people losing interest in it and many professional football players from Pakistan heading across the border to keep their professional careers ongoing. And in the last 7 years, the Pakistani football team has unbelievably not played even a single competitive game.
Luckily, after those struggling years, FIFA has lifted the ban on Pakistani football, with Pakistan assuring FIFA to conduct elections for the Pakistan Football Federation and decide on a proper chairman and president for the Pakistan Football Federation. And now Pakistan can participate in competitions at the continental and international levels.
Recently, Pakistan has been drawn in two competitive tournaments known as the SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) Championship and the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers, where they will face many high-level and high-ranked footballing nations from around the continent of Asia.
And following the SAFF Championship, which starts on June 21, 2023, Pakistan took part in a four-nation friendly series to prepare for the SAFF Championship. That four-nation friendly series was between:
With Mauritius hosting the friendly series, Pakistan had to face a relatively higher and better-ranked team as compared to Pakistan’s 196th ranking in world football. And the results of these friendly matches reflect why the other three nations were ahead of us in the ranking. The results of these fixtures are given below, as the Pakistani Football team was unable to win or even draw a single game but ultimately lost to all three of the better teams.
Pakistan 0-2 Mauritius
Pakistan 0-1 Kenya
Pakistan 1-3 Djibouti
The Pakistani team lost all three games but showed up and played some promising football in these fixtures. And at this moment, these losses are understandable due to a 7-year gap before returning to playing top football again, and it’s also understandable that this team will take time to develop a strong combination and improve team chemistry because football is a game more about team chemistry than just individual playing skills.
SAFF Championship 2023
But despite these defeats, Pakistani players are pretty motivated and have their heads up to go to India, where they will participate in the SAFF Championship. Pakistan was seeded in a group of four teams alongside the other much better-ranked teams, including arch-rivals India. The group consists of:
Pakistan faces these opponents on June 21, 24, and 27, respectively.
Pakistan to face off India in the opening game
The Shaheens will face their arch-rivals India today at Pakistani time at 7:00 PM at Sri Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, India, in their opening game of Group A. India, who is currently ranked 101 in the FIFA ranking, look like favourites for this game to face off against a relatively weaker side, Pakistan, who is currently ranked 196th in the men’s FIFA ranking. But whatever the sport is, in a Pakistan-India game, no team can be considered favourites at all because this classic game is more than a game it’s about the passion of beating the rivals for the pride of one’s own country. If we take a look back at the records, India has beaten Pakistan 3-1 in the most recent competitive meeting in the history of the SAFF Championship, but the Pakistan team also beat India 2-1 in 2016 at India’s home under the captaincy of legendary Kaleemullah Khan. And this time Pakistan will be under the captaincy of either Hassan Bashir or Yousaf Butt, while the Indian team will be under the captaincy of their top scorer and superstar, Sunil Chhetri.
Regardless of the previous records and results, this game will always promise to be epic and one that makes pulses rise, and it will be one of the games to be watched in the sub-continent on Wednesday with huge excitement in both countries.
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