Striking gold in Rome
A long way to go
A poor show by our colts
in Asian Under-22 championship comes as a big wake-up call for Pakistan’s football authorities
By Alam Zeb Safi
unexpectedly Pakistan Under-22 football team slumped to rock bottom in
the 2013 Asian Cup Qualifiers which concluded in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)
last week. The apparently well-prepared Greenshirts looked short on both
talent and experience, something they needed to counter their tough
rivals in the continental spectacle.
After going 0-1 down
against Saudi Arabia, Pakistan were surprisingly held to a goalless draw
by comparatively weaker Sri Lanka. This brought down the team's morale
and thereafter it kept losing matches, tasting a 0-2 defeat at the hands
of Kyrgyzstan, was crushed by Syria 4-0 and in their last show Zavisa
Milosavljevic's charges also went 0-1 down against Palestine.
In the entire affair,
Pakistan failed to score a single goal, but conceded eight in the
process. Pakistan's finishing, as usual, was their Achilles Heals. There
were some reports that coach Zavisa made some rapid changes in the
line-up which he had already decided on tours of Thailand and Palestine.
Injuries to left-back
Ahsanullah and skipper Kaleemullah also affected the team's performance.
The selection of a few ordinary players, who had no international
exposure, also went against the team.
Before flying for
Riyadh, Pakistan were provided with two and a half months' hectic
training both at home and abroad. The boys were sent to Thailand,
Palestine and Bahrain where they played a number of practice matches
against different oppositions.
Milosavljevic did not blame his players for the poor display but the
system back home which has been unable to produce the stuff able to face
pressure of tough international events. "I will not blame the
players for their failure in the Asian Cup Qualifiers. They showed a lot
of improvement after around three months of good training but I would
say that they are still far behind the rest of the countries who
participated in the Asian Cup Qualifiers," Zavisa told 'The News on
Sunday' in an interview.
to strengthen its club structure. If you have a sound domestic system
you will find players who will already know the basics of the game and a
coach will have to focus on the build up, super training and preparation
of the team ahead of any competition and not to work on their
basics," the Serbian pointed out.
"Pakistan is far
behind and will have to adopt a solid approach to correct its
football," he said. "I will discuss these issues with the
authorities and will try to sort out a solution for the problems. If the
same team with slight changes is groomed for around two years, then I
would be in a position to explain myself. There is a dire need of
persistent and systematic grooming of different age-group teams under a
healthy pool of highly qualified coaches which could produce and develop
better stuff for the senior or Olympic sides," he stressed.
responsibility is to run a senior team but I will also guide and support
those coaches who will run age-group teams. But I once again say that
this should be a continuous process and should not be halted," he
In the entire
tournament, Pakistani keeper Saqib Hanif played exceptionally well as he
saved several sure goals even against the tough oppositions like Saudi
Arabia and Syria.
Saqib, who has
recently joined KRL, may become a worthy successor of the experienced
goalie Jaffar Khan who is still captaining the senior side.
The qualifiers were a
real test for the Serbian coach Zavisa in which he failed badly. He is
accused by experts of defensive approach. But still he will be given a
few more opportunities as the PFF does not want to remove him now as he
has hardly served for around eight months as a coach.
His next challenge
will be the South Asian Games which are expected to be hosted by India
in New Delhi early next year.
But I would suggest
that the team which will participate in the South Asian Games should be
given to any other home-grown coach while Zavisa should be assigned the
task to prepare the senior team for the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers to
be held in March next year.
The senior team has
not played any international game for the last six months which shows
that it will be difficult for the country like Pakistan to improve its
Pakistan should think
beyond the South Asian Games as there is no value of such a regional
tournament in the eyes of the AFC and FIFA. Pakistan should focus on
giving maximum exposure to the senior team and at least four foreign
tours ahead of the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers will be required to
produce the desired results in the continental event.
The foreign coach
should also try to induct key foreign-based players which could
transform the team into a fighting unit. He should also review what sort
of support staff he will need for producing desired results on
In order to improve
football, the PFF should also review its administrative structure and
have a qualified Director Technical who could work strongly to put the
country out of the crisis.
thousands of people turned downtown Madrid into a sea of red last
weekend, flooding the thoroughfares and taking over the main fountain
square of the Spanish capital after the national football team won
another Euro 2012 championship, with a 4-0 victory over Italy.
And why wouldn't they?
The Spaniards deserved it. "Viva La Roja y Amarillo" (Long
Live Red and Yellow) or "La furia roja" (the red fury).
This is the fruit of
their hard work and tough practice.
The victory at Kiev's
Olympic Stadium made Spain the first team to retain the European crown
and the first from the continent to win three straight major
competitions following its 2010 World Cup success.
"Those people who
think we are playing boring in my opinion don't understand the
game," Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas told reporters. "Three
major trophies in a row has never been done before in the history of
Spain took the game to
the Italians from the start and there was a zip about its passing, with
Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva buzzing around the
opposition defence, to immediately get the upper hand.
midfielders Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets providing the foundation,
Xavi Hernandez was able to dictate from the central areas, feeding the
runs of both the forwards and the fullbacks up the flanks.
Let's not forget about
Vicente del Bosque here, to whom Spain's victory really belongs. The
sometimes gruff but unfailingly respectful 61-year-old built on the
triumph of Euro 2008 and has turned Spain into a harmonious and
incredibly effective unit that has taken its place at the summit of
world football, smashing records along the way. He becomes the second
coach to win a European Championship and a World Cup title after German
Helmut Schoen achieved the feat in the decade of 1970s.
Spain is also the
current European basketball "Baloncesto" champion too and
their ACB (Asociaciòn de Clubs de Baloncesto) is not only the top
competitive basketball league but is also considered to be one of the
best in the world and second in the line after NBA of USA.
Spanish team for
London Olympics is oozing with talents like the Los Angeles Lakers'
forward Pau Gasol, Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Manuel Calderon,
shooting guard Rudy Fernandez of the Denver Nuggets, and Oklahoma City
Thunder's power forward Serge Ibaka.
The first game in the
history of the selection was a friendly game before the 1935 EuroBasket,
where Spain faced the selection of Portugal. This event, which was held
in Geneva in the summer of year 1935 was the start of EuroBasket in
Spain was able to
finish second and qualified for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where
basketball was introduced for the first time. After this, the team
disappeared from the EuroBasket competition for over 20 years and
reappeared at the EuroBasket 1959 in Turkey, where it finished 15th.
following years, the selection slowly but surely worked its way up the
medal ranks again and appeared on the podium six times between 1959 and
Spain came to host the 2007 EuroBasket which was held in Madrid, Palma
de Mallorca, Alicante, Seville and Granada. At this competition the same
12 players that won the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan made it
through to the final.
tennis ace and world No 2 in Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP)
Rafael Nadal (Rafa) of Spain has won numerous major titles, including US
Open, Australian Open, five-time winner of Roland Garros in France and
Wimbledon in England.
defeated his rival Roger Federer of Switzerland in the 2008 Wimbledon
final, considered one of the greatest matches of all time, and in doing
so became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win at Roland Garros
and Wimbledon in the same year.
Nadal also defeated
Federer to win the 2009 Australian Open final; it was the seventh time
the two met in a Grand Slam final. He ascended to the No 1 spot on
August 18, 2008.
Nadal was the first
left-handed man to finish the year with the No 1 ranking since John
McEnroe in 1984, and the first Spaniard ever to achieve that feat.
We must not forget the
Spanish conquerors in cycling, the riders led by SaxoBank-Sungard's
Alberto Contador, winner of last year's Tour de France, this year's Giro
Italia, and most of the other races he's entered.
Spain's Contador and
his compatriots Jesus Hernandez, Daniel Navarro and Benjamin Noval are
the dominant and top-in-the-line tour riders of this generation
—especially in the climbing stages.
Fernando Alonso, Adriàn
Campos, Pedro de la Rosa and Maria de Villota are the world famous
Spanish drivers of Formula one race. Previously of McLaren, Minardi,
Renault and currently of Ferrari driver, Alonso, a two-time world
champion, missed out on third place in the overall driver standings by a
single point to Red Bull's Mark Webber. This followed a five-win 2010
campaign in which Alonso finished second in the standings and battled
for the world championship all the way through the end of the season
finale in Abu Dhabi. Alonso joined Ferrari ahead of the 2010 season
after leaving Renault, the team with which he won titles in 2005 and
2006. Alonso spent the 2007 season with McLaren before returning to
Renault for two more years.
1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Pakistan had achieved a real morale booster
by winning the 1958 Asian Games hockey gold medal in Tokyo, albeit on
goal average, thus relegating India to the second position for the first
It was almost the same
team that had been playing together since 1958. Eight of the first
choice XI had played in the 1956 final against India in Melbourne, where
Pakistan had won its first ever Olympic medal, a silver.
So, most of the
players knew that it was their last chance to win an Olympic gold. The
team were again led by Abdul Hameed Hameedi, the lone survivor from the
1948 Olympic games at London.
can be judged from the fact that he replaced Zafar Ahmad Khan by Zafar
Hayat at virtually the last moment. Ali Iqtidar Shah Dara, the coach of
the 1956 squad, was now the manager of the team.
Pakistan started in a
cavalier fashion by beating the super-fit Australians 3-0, but it was
not an easy game as Australians denied Pakistan a goal until the last 15
minutes. Then Pakistan pulverised Poland by an 8-0 margin and thrashed
Japan by a 10-0 score line.
In the quarter-final,
Pakistan found West Germany a hard nut to crack. Pakistan did not have
the services of the redoubtable full-back Muneer Dar for this match, but
his substitute Basheer Ahmad did not let his absence be felt. Pakistan
went ahead through that great centre forward Abdul Waheed, but the
Germans equalised quickly. Left-in Naseer Bunda netted the winner.
Although Pakistan won
the semifinal against Spain by a lone goal courtesy full-back Manzoor
Hussain Atif's penalty corner conversion, their superiority was never in
doubt — though Hameedi had to save a penalty bully.
Muneer Dar had
recovered in time for the final but on skipper Hameedi's insistence the
winning combination was retained. Hence, the stage was set for a clash
of the titans in the eternal city of Rome. The Indian side, which had
won six Olympic hockey titles on the trot, were now pitted against the
determined and hungry Pakistanis.
started with an all-out attack. Throughout the tournament Pakistan's
main ploy in originating attacks was the right trio.
It consisted of
right-half Ghulam Rasool Chaudhry, right-in Hameedi and right-out Noor
In the 13th minute of
the final, Hameedi slipped away Noor Alam with a clear run. Noor Alam's
centre found left-in Naseer Bunda. The ball stopped dead on his stick
and was flicked like a flash onto the left side of the Indian
goalkeeper. This proved to be the decisive goal and it ended India's
32-year reign in Olympic hockey.
of the tournament can be gauged from the fact that they scored 25 goals
and only one was made against them.
The famous English
hockey journalist R L Holland paid tribute to Hameedi and Naseer Buda in
these words: "In the final analysis it was their inside forwards,
Hameedi and Naseer, who won Pakistan their gold medal and most of all
Hameed. He does not play the spectacular trick of Naseer or the Indian
Peter. But neither of these men have his shrewd tactical appreciation
and command of the movement. To my eyes, he is the most constructive
forward in the world today."
This was the crowning
achievement for the skipper Hameedi who retired from hockey after having
competed in four consecutive Olympic Games. It was also a momentous
occasion for the manager A I S Dara who had really worked hard all these
years to build up a winning squad.
But most importantly
it was a great occasion for the entire Pakistani nation which finally
had an Olympic gold medal. A huge gathering welcomed the team back home
and there were big receptions in all the major cities in their honour.
It is worth mentioning
here that the 1960 Olympics hockey final was televised through out the
Western Europe on the European link-up. It was also the first time that
TV covered the Olympics on such a large scale although it was in London
in 1948 that the Olympic Games were first shown on home television sets.
Team Positions: (1)
Pakistan. (2) India. (3) Spain. (4) Great Britain. (5) New Zealand. (6)
Australia. (7) West Germany. (8) Kenya. (9) Holland. (10) France. (11)
Belgium. (12) Poland. (13) Italy. (14) Japan. (15) Switzerland. (16)
Abdul Rasheed and Ronny Gardener. Full-backs: Muneer Dar, Manzoor Atif,
Khursheed Azam and Basheer Ahmad. Half-backs: Ghulam Rasool Chaudhry,
Anwaar Ahmed Khan, Habib Ali Kiddie, Zafar Hayat. Forwards: Noor Alam,
Abdul Hameed Hameedi, Abdul Waheed Khan, Naseer Bunda, Mutiullah Khan,
Zafar Ali Zafari, Mushtaq Ahmad, Khawaja Zakauddin.
Captain: Abdul Hameed
Hameedi. Manager: A I S Dara
Goals: Abdul Hameed
Hameedi 9, Abdul Waheed 6, Naseer Bunda 5, Muneer Dar 1, M H Atif 1,
Mutiullah 1, Anwaar A Khan 1, Noor Alam 1.
Pakistani Hockey team