Despite huge talent, we haven’t been able to make much progress
I have been covering volleyball for the last two decades but rarely have I seen any major breakthrough in the international circuit. We normally finish seventh or eighth at the Asian level and it is not acceptable as we have huge talent which, if properly managed, can produce much better results.
I remember we finished with a bronze medal in the Asian Junior Championship around one and a half decade ago under the Iranian coach Ali Reza Moameri and that was a fine feat from a brigade which had some solid players. Our recent performances in the Islamic Games, AVC Cup and later our Under-20 team's performance in the Asian Under-20 event in Bahrain were below standard. In the Islamic Games in Turkey we should have managed a podium finish. We lost all three matches. It was disappointing. We ended sixth in the AVC Cup in Thailand almost at the same time and then ended eighth in the Under-20 event in Bahrain.
The big issue is that like in the other sports disciplines we are better at junior and youth level but at senior level we are unable to perform the way we should. And it is because we don't groom our young players the way they should be.
I will not criticise anyone but surely it is the responsibility of the Pakistan Volleyball Federation (PVF) to manage things better.
I will suggest a few things which if followed could help Pakistan pull off the desired results in the international circuit. I see a lot of talent in Pakistan's volleyball and we need just a sincere push to transform the sport into a fighting discipline in the international circuit.
The PVF will have to eradicate the politics in which the current management is involved. It will be done only when PVF stops believing some individuals blindly without investigating the matters by itself.
Internal politics is a big hurdle and it has unsettled even the best players of the team which is affecting the performance of the whole brigade. Likes and dislikes in team selection before an event and a match is a big hurdle. It's Pakistan's team and not anybody's personal team. We should work on merit. The coaching panel, other than the foreign coach, should comprise such individuals who have played the game at the highest level.
I have asked before and I ask again: why is former Pakistan captain Naseer Ahmed not in the coaching panel of the national team?
The current Brazilian coach has played alongside Naseer in the Lebanon league as a player. We are giving 5000 US dollars to the Brazilian coach and in return we see poor results. We should respect our own people. Naseer Ahmed is a big name in Pakistan's volleyball and as a coach he may bring a huge improvement in the country's performance. He knows the system, the players and international game demands and it will be a great decision to bring him into the coaching panel.
The other thing which I want to mention here is that the PVF should give full authority to the head coach. It should not interfere in his affairs. If it does the coach will not be able to work independently and will be under pressure. It will adversely affect the country's performance.
I have seen this in football. One of our foreign coaches did not like the federation's interference and he was sacked when our national team was abroad. It was a rude decision from the football federation at that time. So I don't want PVF to interfere in coaching affairs. It's quite a technical job and the coach should be allowed to handle it as he sees fit. In the end the coach will be responsible for the outcome. If the federation interferes then the coach cannot be made accountable for the outcome.
The other thing which I see affecting the team's growth is that foreign coaches get replaced too frequently. First of all we should test our own top people in the coaching department for a few years and if we fail then we should hire a better foreign coach for five years. Brief stints of foreign coaches disturbs the whole set-up of the national team as everyone operates in a different way. A Brazilian will work in a different way and an Iranian or a Korean will work in some other way. It confuses the players and they are unable to adopt a certain style.
We should respect and believe in our players. We make certain players heroes within no time and drop others with huge services for the country. This is not the way things should be done. We should respect all our players. When a player gets injured he runs from pillar to post to get treatment from various sources. There is no one to support him. Due to this negligence we have lost several valuable players. Our seasoned professional player Murad Jehan got injured a few years ago and nobody backed him in his treatment. It is the responsibility of the federation to help its injured players in their treatment.
Volleyball is a big discipline and our country is full of talent but there should be a system to run things properly. We should provide handsome daily allowances to our players during camp and international events. Unless we provide them top facilities and money our country will not be able to develop in the game. The PVF top brass must see things impartially. Hope the things will improve.