ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) executive committee and congress member Sadia Sheikh comes down hard on team selection and termed poor and biased tactics of coach behind home team’s poor showing in the 3rd SAFF Women’s Soccer Championship.

Talking to The Nation, Sadia, who is also chairperson of country’s second most popular female soccer club, said: “No one else but head coach Tariq Lutfi is responsible for the ordinary results in the championship. We could have easily beaten Sri Lanka and posed serious challenge to Nepal as well, had the team was selected purely on merit. Only one certain club players namely Balochistan United, which is owned by PFF women wing chairperson Senator Rubina Irfan, were given priority, while all the other clubs, including Diya FC, were ignored.”

Sadia said the PFF should have adopted clear-cut policy as far as appointment of coach was concerned. “Lutfi is the head coach of Balochistan United FC, so how could it be possible to expect fair, free and transparent team selection from a person who is head coach of a club. His unfriendly and rude behaviour with females is well-known to all. Instead of bucking the girls and provide them equal opportunities, Lutfi always discourages young talent. He not only adopts biased attitude with the girls of other clubs and institutions but also suggests them to stop playing football.”

“If a head coach behaves in such manner and discourages the talent, how could it be possible for us to convince parents to send their daughters for playing football for the national team. First of all, Lutfi tries to dishearten players completely and secondly, he forced them to change clubs and join Balochistan United if they want to play for the national team or become his assistants. This kind of attitude is not acceptable to any player, and he has no right to advocate for a certain club,” she added.

“I will launch a serious complaint with PFF president Makhdoo Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat about this behavior of head coach and especially his negative and biased attitude towards Diya Club. He always try to discourage Diya Club girls, which is a leading national club and its shinning player Hajra Khan is leading the national team. Our player Rukhsana Rashid was part of the team which toured Bahrain and was not considered till the last match and that too for only five minutes, and after that, she was not allowed to practice. “Other brilliant players like Sohiba of Army, Muqadass and Muqadar of HEC, Sobia of Model Town and Sumera of Wapda were not considered for the selection. Had these players were in the team, results could have been far different,” Sadia lamented.

She applauded the efforts of the PFF chief for bringing SAFF championship to home at a time when nobody was ready to visit Pakistan which was a proof of his abilities. “It is my request to him to take serious note of this injustice being rendered to the top professional players, which cost Pakistan dearly. I am sure he has already taken notice of Pakistan team’s poor showing and action will be very much on the cards.”

When this scribe met with head coach Tariq Lutfi to seek his point of view regarding allegations hurled at him by Sadia and others, he rubbished all the blames leveled on him and said: “I always give respect to players and select team purely on merit. I have managed to get rid of a few certain individuals, who were not more than liabilities. If given time to work with same group of players, I can bring best out of them. I have selected very young, energetic and hardworking players, and I would like to continue with them. I am sure I can produce more than desired results from the same group of players.”