Spain’s Limones to coach Pakistanis on how to ‘Bend It Like Beckham’

By Jaime Leon

Islamabad, July 28 (efe-epa).- Spain’s Daniel Limones has been appointed as technical director of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) to modernize soccer in a country where cricket is an overwhelmingly popular sport.

“Give power to the figure of the coach. Empower women’s football. Long-term plans. Organizing the future of football,” Limones, who was appointed in earlier this month for an initial six-month period, summarized his goals to EFE.

As the technical director of the PFF, all operations related to soccer in the country will pass his scrutiny, and the Spaniard appeared very clear on where to start.

His first objective will be to encourage and empower coaches, whose numbers are very few in a country with a population of 207 million.

After that, the focus will be on the younger ones. “Then we will work on a basic soccer system, establishing a system and methodology throughout the country,” said the 34-year-old from Madrid.

Limones arrived in Pakistan in September 2018 to launch a soccer academy of the club Atletico de Madrid in the city of Lahore, which would make it the first European club in the Asian country.

During his time as head of the Madrid club’s academy, Limones saw “a lot of talent” for soccer in Pakistan.

“But the ecosystem is less structured and established than in places like Europe, the United States or Japan,” he underlined, which does not help in the development of the sport.

“The children who started with us (at the academy) improved by huge margins,” said Limones.

Another aspect he wants to focus on is women’s soccer, which now has its championship tournament lasting a month.

“The female soccer players are looking forward to developing their potential,” he said.

PFF’s Normalisation Committee Chairman Humza Khan told EFE they were hoping that the man from Madrid would oversee the development of the sport “right from the grassroots level to domestic structure to national teams.”

“With his experience, we hope he can help develop a strategic plan to put Pakistan football on the right track,” said Khan.

Cricket is, of course, Pakistan’s most popular sport, and children can be seen playing it in parks and fields across the country. The game that was introduced in the country during the British colonial era evokes the same passion among its people as soccer in Europe.

The Pakistani national football team ranks 200th in the FIFA World Rankings and has never qualified for a World Cup.

The first division league in the country lasts around four months and the players are not professional. This league and two smaller ones currently remain stalled by the novel coronavirus epidemic.

Moreover, in recent years this sport has been rocked by instability due to internal problems in the federation.

The PFF is currently run by the Normalisation Committee, appointed by FIFA to hold elections after internal disputes.

Even then, Limones believes that soccer has been making progress.

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