پاکستان / Pakistan
- Capital: Islamabad / اسلام آباد / Islāmābād
- Official Languages: English, Urdu
- Recognised Regional Languages: Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi
- Nicknames: Pak Shaheen; پاک شاہین (The Pak Falcons)
- Association: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)
- FIFA Code: PAK
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Asian Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Asian Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best AFC Challenge Cup Result (Men): Group Stage (2006)
- Best AFC Solidarity Cup Result (Men): Qualified (2020)
- Best SAFF Championship Result (Men): Third Place (1997)
- Best SAFF Championship Result (Women): Semi Finals (2010)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 141st (February 1993)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 106th (March 2010, March 2013)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 205th (June 2019)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 135th (September 2015)
- Most Capped Player: Jaffar Khan – 44 caps
- Top Scorer: Muhammad Essa – 13 goals
Pakistan, also officially known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country located in southern Asia which has the fifth-biggest population in the world (over 212,2 million people). Despite having excellent sporting prowess in other sports, especially in cricket, sadly Pakistani football has somewhat lacked throughout the years and underperformed when compared to their potential. With football having been brought to the region during the controversial British Raj period, Pakistan joined FIFA in 1948 and became one of the founding members of the AFC in 1954. Alas Pakistani football triumphs have been few and far between, with their golden period being in the 1980s when the side managed a number of successful results against more established Asian sides.
Pakistan are regarded as being massively underperforming in Asian football and are considered as a ‘minnow’ in Asian football despite its large population and seemingly extensive potential. Development has been hampered with the PFF having internal and external problems, especially with FIFA, which resulted in the international body suspending Pakistan from all football activities between late 2017 and early 2018. As a result, the development of football within this rich sporting country continues to be heartbreakingly hindered, with Pakistan still occupying the role of a ‘sleeping giant’ within Asian football for the time being…
Talking about a side who have constantly underperformed in international football but have massive potential to become one of Asia’s strongest sides in the future, we interviewed the brilliant FootballPakistan.com. Since 2003, Football Pakistan has focused on all things involving the tumultuous world of Pakistani football, whether it be the Pakistan Premier League, Pakistani players playing abroad, or the national teams themselves, FPDC has got you covered. To find their social media accounts, website, and podcast, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @FootballPak
- Website: https://www.footballpakistan.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/footballpakistan/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/footballpakistandotcom/
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/FootballPakistan
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
Our football hasn’t had a great deal of broadcasting history over the years so many players didn’t become household names and the sport never became professional. The national team has not had great success either but some players still live in folklore with a lucky few managing to move and play abroad in other leagues. From that era Qayyum Ali Changezi from the 1950s-60s is considered as the greatest Pakistan football player, and in the modern era that title goes to Muhammad Essa who retired from the national team in 2009. Essa won two South Asian Games titles and domestic league titles, and became a well known name in the 2000s. The most famous one right now is his cousin and striker Kaleemullah Khan due to him becoming a real star by mid-to-late 2010s.
As far as managers go, Pakistan has never had any long-term managers with most coaching appointments being largely adhoc and event-to-event basis. In terms of sheer longevity as a football management career domestically and with Pakistan national team, Tariq Lutfi stands out because he won domestic titles as a player and as a coach, whilst also coaching the Pakistan national team to some regional successes in the South Asian Games football tournaments.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Back in the 1990s, Qazi Muhammad Ashfaq was one of our centre forwards and dribblers that could run at opposition defences on his own when others around him looked helpless. He also had a tragic end, dying of cancer in early 2000s when he was just in his 30s, with a heartbreaking image of wearing his team’s kit on his deathbed. People who saw him play still talk about him with a tear in their eyes. So a cult hero or tragic hero, guess both can come in well.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Pakistan currently?
Well our national team hasn’t played much in the last half of a decade due ongoing political issues. The last time we played was in June 2019, and back then Hassan Bashir [34 year-old forward playing for Danish side AB Tårnby] was seen as our best player as he was the highest scoring player in the team from the current lot.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
As mentioned previously, there hasn’t been much football in the last 6 years for our players but overall we have been in a very bad rut. Failing to win the regional SAFF Championship, and failing to win even a single World Cup qualifier in our history. Just proper minnow stuff.
Q. Are there any Pakistani players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
There are certainly a new crop of youngsters coming through despite the disruption in our football. One to watch should be Muhammad Waheed [18 year-old forward currently playing for Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority] who should be making his debut next time Pakistan plays and he’s already done well at domestic and U19s level.
Q. Looking at Pakistan’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
While some results do standout like being joint winners of the Colombo Cup back in 1952 that featured a few South Asian sides, or doing well in the 1960s Merdeka Cups in Malaysia, and notching a few results in the 1981 King’s Cup in Thailand, these were largely invitational/friendly tournaments. Pakistan’s first official international tournament success was winning football gold in the 1989 South Asian Games at home in Islamabad. Back then it was still a senior event until it became an U23 event when the SAFF Championship became its own thing by the mid-1990s. Winning gold in the 2004 South Asian Games was our first experience watching Pakistan win something when we began in 2003. A commendable 3-2 loss to Japan in the 2006 Asian Games was another game we watched with earnest and still talk about. Maybe drawing against the defending Asian Cup champions Iraq 0-0 away in Aleppo (Syria) in 2007 can be considered a high point, even though it was a dead rubber fixture after we were smashed 7-0 in the 1st leg in Lahore.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
There have been plenty of lows even in the nearly 20 years we have followed as fans covering Pakistani football. Losing 7-1 to Sri Lanka in 2008 was an unbelievable result and still don’t understand how we conceded 7 against a fellow South Asian minnow. Also drawing 2-2 against Macau in 2006 AFC Challenge Cup was tough to take as a win would have helped us progress to the next round. In addition to the pretty much every World Cup qualifying campaign where we have gone out at the very first hurdle.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Pakistani national team?
Best thing… well we haven’t had much success so I’m not sure how to explain that. The worst things are many, like failure after failure, politics and divisions. Despite lack of mainstream media interests and lack of popular support for the game, certain elements within media and vested interests still make the sport controversial and replete with political turmoil and instability.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Sadly we hardly have any of that culture for the national team, for example, the national team last played at home in 2015 and it wasn’t even shown live on tv, and due to security measures, the matchday experience hasn’t been the best for our fans. Once the matches at home become a regular thing and the team starts winning, then maybe we will see a change in attitudes.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
We have some, our current 3rd kit is a very nice design and colour scheme, so we have that. That said, the Pakistan national team does not yet have a proper official kit supplier, relying mostly on local manufacturers to get around. Merchandise has never been a thing for our federation so fans really struggle to get hold of kits.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Pakistani national team?
Right now the hopes are that the political turmoil in our football ends soon and football returns back to normality but with greater desire to improve things. Would love to see us finally win the South Asian regional tournament plus to get to the next round of World Cup qualifiers in 2023 [for World Cup 2026 qualifying]. We are the only team left in Asia without a win and that needs to change that if we’re to progress anywhere.
A massive بہت بہت شکریہ to FootballPakistan.com for answering our questions on the Pak Shaheen. Remember you can find their excellent account and website in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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