As many as 15 players in the current Afghanistan squad of 20 for the SAAF Cup here play abroad and that has brought football in that country to a higher level, their head coach Peter Segrt said today.
“Despite the situation back in Afghanistan, most of the players are lucky to play in Germany, Denmark, USA, Bahrain, Malaysia to hone their skills. Most of them have dual passport,” Segrt said ahead of Afghanistan’s summit clash in SAFF Cup against India on Sunday.
“Off the list of 20 which we have registered in the SAFF Suzuki Cup, 5 come from Afghanistan while the rest of the 15 Players stay and play outside Afghanistan,” he said.
“There are over 3 million Afghan people living in Iran alone and there are a huge number of people in Pakistan and even India. It’s unbelievable when you have 30 million people watching your matches,” added the German coach.
He said Afghanistan had to bring in new players after some experienced ones left the team after winning the last SAFF Cup title in Kathmandu in 2013.
“After the triumph in the 2013 SAFF Championship seven players quit and we lost some key players. To fill in the void, we had to look but I am also looking for players from Afghanistan to settle down in the squad,” he said.
Asked about reports that some Afghan players in the squad went to Kabul for the first time ever before proceeding for the SAFF Cup, Segrt said, “Yeah. Though some of the players are from Kabul, some of them had never been there before.
“To bring in a sense of unification I assembled all the Players in Kabul and we started our journey from Kabul and made all players drop into the country.
“But even as we were doing a photo shoot and had slated a Press Conference, there was a bomb attack in the vicinity and I was very scared for the Players. We proceeded to Doha for seven days for a Preparatory Camp from where we landed in Trivandrum,” the coach said.
On his future plans, Segrt said, “I hope I can bring Afghanistan to a higher level. They are very proud people and have a strong character. They never give up. They like to learn and I want to make changes, and fast.
“I wanted to work as a national coach and it’s not often that you get it. I am fully aware of the situation in Afghanistan and the country is going through a difficult time. I believe I can bring Afghanistan to a higher level.
“As a coach you need to understand and respect culture of the country you are working in. I am presently staying in Afghanistan in an effort to create a new situation where I can bring in some hope. I feel any national coach needs to reside in the Country he is contracted with.”