LAHORE - Football game is at its peak in 2014 due to World Cup which charged the soccer lovers around the globe including Pakistan, so the expectations of local football fans were also sky-high with their national team.

Pakistan football proved improvement this year on the back of successful holding of SAFF Women’s Championship in Islamabad, signing of Pakistan players’ contract with international clubs, Pakistan street children footballers wonderful performance in the Street Children Football World Cup while many other events still left to bring the Pakistan soccer to top level especially in Asia.

Pakistan football is flourishing under its dynamic leadership in current year as Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) took some significant steps. Resultantly, it is likely that Pakistan would be rated among the top few football teams of Asia in near future. However, soccer lovers in Pakistan are expecting more from this level.

The year 2014 proved to be very beneficial and prosperous for Pakistan football players as four of them signed contract with international clubs. They would not only get international recognition by performing exceptionally for their respective clubs but would also earn million of rupees in cash.

Pakistan’s top striker Kaleemullah signed a two-year contract worth million of rupees with Kyrgyzstan’s FC Dordoi and the same club also signed other Pakistanis including M Adil and Saddam Hussain while M Ahmad of Pakistan signed his contract with Essa Town FC Bahrain. The Pakistan players’ contracts with international clubs have opened the floodgates for others to avail opportunities in these clubs and earn even more than their expectations.

Besides, football fever in the country increased because of impressive and remarkable performance showed by Pakistan street children football team which finished third in the Street Child World Cup held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Competing for the first time in the mega event, Pakistan street children crushed title-holder India 13-0 in their first match before beating Kenya and Mauritius and holding the US team to top their group. They beat Philippines 3-2 in the quarter-final before losing to Burundi 3-4 in the semi-final. They managed to beat the US 3-2 on penalties in the third-place playoff to cap a remarkable tournament for the rookies.

On their return to home, they had been given rousing welcome by soccer crazy fans and later, not only the Parliament of Pakistan applauded their achievement and honoured them with some handy amounts but PFF president Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat also assured his all-out support to them and offered to train the prominent players of the team under the supervision of the PFF youth development coaches. Not only this, a UK-based charity announced to send a few among them to England for further training and grooming under the watchful eyes of English coaches.

The successful hosting of the recent international event ‘3rd SAFF Women Championship 2014’ is the most appropriate example of flourishing football game in the country. The mega event indulged top eight nations of the South Asian region including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and hosts Pakistan. The success of this mega event must be gauged from the facts that at a time when not even the male international teams of any major sports discipline are ready to visit and play in Pakistan, the entire eight SAFF countries’ female football teams gathered in Pakistan and participated in the championship, just because of efforts made by the PFF leadership.

Another bright aspect of this international activity was the arrival of top leadership of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) including AFC president Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa along with AFC vice president Prince Abdullah and Football Association of Malaysia president, who is also president of the Asian Hockey Association, AFC secretary Dato Alex Soosay, FIFA Executive Committee member and Thailand Football Association president Datu Woravi Makudi and SAFF president Qazi Salahuddin. During their visit to the country, they endorsed the positive developments being occurred in Pakistan football game.

AFC president Salman Al Khalifa, who was the chief guest at the final match, also delivered a historic speech to the PFF congress. It was for the first time in the history of Pakistan football that an AFC president had participated and addressed the PFF congress. In the 3rd SAFF Women Football Championship held at Islamabad, India thrashed Nepal 6–0 to retain the title.

Reviewing the overall performance of the PFF, there are a lot of mentionable achievements, which show the federation’s keenness towards promotion of the game in the country. The national football team partook in various international competitions where they produced mixed results which were better than compared to previous ones. The national team appeared in 3rd Al Naqba International Tournament in Palestine from May 8 to 21 and out of three matches, they won one against Sri Lanka and lost two against Jordan and Palestine.

The great feat of the year which the national team achieved was triumph in friendly football series against India at Bangalore, India. They defeated the arch-rival at their own backyard. Pakistan though lost the first match 1–0 yet they bounced back in style in second winning it 2–0, and this victory helped the green shirts to clinch the series by better goal average. In their Bahrain visit for friendly matches against Riffa Club, Champion Club of A League, in August, they drew the opponents 1–1 and in the second match, and drew against Al Hid Champion Club of A Division 2–2.

The U-23 football team took part in the 17th Asian Games at Incheon, South Korea from September 11 to 25. The performance of green shirts remained pretty poor as they lost both the matches they played against DPR Korea and China. The top club of the country KRL Football Club featured in the AFC President Cup at Colombo, Sri Lanka in May. KRL won only one against Bhutan FC, drew one against Bangladesh while lost one against Sri Lanka FC.

The national level competitions were also at their peak and were organised in a trend setting manners. The country’s premier event known as Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) kept the players engaged in healthy soccer activity and provided them the opportunity to excel at national level. KRL was defending champion of the event while Army is on top in the 2014-15 ongoing PPFL season with 36 points. The teams competing in this highest event of the country are KRL, PAF, K-Electric, Wapda, Army, Railways, Afghan FC (Chamman), Muslim FC, Baloch FC (Quetta), PIA, KPT and NBP. The other events such as National Challenge Cup, A and B Division League and other useful competitions were also organised by PFF in a befitting manner.

In 2014, PFF president Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat along secretary Col (Retd) Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi and supporting staff did their best to make the year outstanding for Pakistan football and all the above-mentioned achievements are the fruits of their sincere efforts. The close relations of the PFF chief with other Asian and non-Asian football nations also made the difference for Pakistan soccer.

Again in 2015, the PFF leadership is committed to develop youth football as it is the department which has started bearing fruit and the young players started entering the main team and performing exceptionally. The federation is dedicated to make its leagues professional so that their outcomes may be healthier and fertile.

Due to phenomenal success of 2014 Football World Cup, the FIFA and AFC are enthusiastic about prompting soccer in its 209 member countries and will distribute fruits of mega events among them for soccer uplift, so Pakistan will also get its lime share and it is expected the country will get more goal projects and international soccer assistance. It is expected the game, which is the most favourite and followed game of the world, will strengthen its root in the country and will get further boost in the year to come.