Saddam wants more incentives for Pakistan footballers

From AZ Khan

KARACHI: Hardly any Pakistani footballer owns a car. Mostly they use motorcycles when they go to their league matches. This makes them less inspirational for upcoming generation who wants to play but are reluctant as they are obsessed with the fears of mediocre income which will make their life more difficult if they play football. Although a few departments offer good salaries to their players but mostly footballers are less-paid and this factor has put the sport on back foot.

And Pakistan football team captain Saddam Hussain agrees to this.

“Yes, the basic issue is how much you value your players,” Saddam told’ in an interview during days when COVID-19 fears have also forced the players to confine to their homes.

“A big status acts as motivational factor. We don’t have that,” Saddam said. 

“How youth will be inspired when they see Pakistan’s star players living in abject conduction,” Saddam questioned.

“In India players are highly valued. Look India’s skipper Sunil Chhetri, he has so many sponsors. Players’ social status has its value and it plays a key role in a game growth,” Saddam said.

He said that if a PSL type league is organised in football also it will enable players to earn money and build their status.

“This will have a huge impact on the sport,” said Saddam who can play at any position.

Saddam said he has played around ten matches against India but the series winning game against the arch-rivals at the Bangalore Stadium in 2014 was a fantastic one.

“It was a superb win as we beat India in the two-match series on goal-average,” Saddam recalled.

After losing the first game 0-1 Pakistan fought back strongly as they downed India 2-0 in their second and last outing of the two-match series to seal the series on goal-average. Saddam and skipper Kaleemullah scored one goal apiece in that game.

Saddam has represented Pakistan in the previous three Asian Games. He led the side in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia in which Pakistan beat Nepal to pull off first win in 21 years in the Games history.

Having captained Pakistan Under-19 team in AFC Under19 Championships qualifiers way back in 2010 in Iran, Saddam said he feels double energy when he plays against India.

“Playing against India is always special. When you are loyal to your country and play under your flag you feel ecstatic,” said Saddam.

To a question Saddam said that pressure is definitely there when they play against India.

“Traditional rivalry counts. Yes, pressure is there when we play against India. But I play positive and disciplined football and God helps me,” Saddam said.

Saddam lives in Malir. All his cousins play football but he is the only one who has played the game at the highest level.

He used to play for Malir Shaheen FC in the initial days of his career.

Having toured India for the first time in 2011 when Jaffar Khan was Pakistan captain and Serbian Zavisa Milosavljevic a coach Saddam has so far played 15 international matches for the senior team. On that tour he was played as midfielder.

To a query Saddam said that the most sensational moment of his career was when he was offered a contract by Kyrgyzstan’s club Dordoi.

“That was an emotional moment,” Saddam recalled. “I was very happy as it was a turning point of my career. I myself was dealing the whole contract and also used to email Zavisa, who was Dordoi’s coach and it was something new experience for me. At that time Asim, who was working in the IT wing of the PFF had helped me,” Saddam said.

Saddam later also played for Isa Town FC of Bahrain and a club from Cyprus for two seasons.

Saddam said that the last five years in which mostly football remained inactive were the most difficult of his career.

“Obviously these five years have been very tough. No leagues, no foreign tours, no professional leagues and definitely such things incurred huge damage on every player,” Saddam said.

When asked about his experience of playing with foreign-based Pakistani footballers, Saddam said personally he had good experience of playing with them.

“Personally I always think positive. I enjoyed playing with them as they are also my brothers. Yes I will appreciate if any outstanding foreign-based player plays for Pakistan team. They should be much better as compared to the home-grown players. For example if a foreign-based striker is better than Kaleem then yes you can give him a chance,” Saddam explained.

Saddam these days practises at home. He has purchased training equipment and is keeping himself fit amid country-wide lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.

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