A few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview one of Pakistan’s most prominent football personalities – none other than Majid Shafiq.
In conversation with Majid Shafiq, I had the privilege of knowing more about the talismanic figure when it comes to coaching.
SS: So sir, tell us who Majid Shafiq is?
MS: Well Saad, I am 42-years-old now. My parents were born in Pakistan. My father belonged to a village called Bhadana near Gujar Khan, whilst my mother is from Fimkasser, Chakwal. My parents settled in the UK in the late 1960’s. I am one of five siblings and the eldest.
As a kid, I always thought about studying to become a doctor. At the age of 17, I developed an interest and a huge liking towards the field of sports science and exercise physiology. I did a scholarship tear at University of Chester, before completing my B.Sc. (Hon.) degree in Applied Physiology at the University of Wolverhampton. I attended University of Oxford for my post-graduate in the same discipline. Furthermore, I also gained my qualification in teaching from the same institute.
SS: Right. So would you say sports were always part of your interest?
MS: Oh yes. As a player/coach, sport has been close to my heart. I started football at the age of six and went onto achieve a lot as a Pakistani origin player in the UK both as player and coach. I enjoy the game of tennis and I’m also fond of track athletics. But that’s not all. I also like to travel a lot and have done so since I was a teenager. I thoroughly enjoy observing new cultures in countries across the globe (now with my family).
SS: What’s your take on health and fitness? How important is it for one’s lifestyle?
MS: It’s the most integral part of my life after Allah (swt) and my family. I specialize in many areas of health and fitness. For me, self improvement and balance are the cores of personal growth. Understanding the element of health and fitness and its application to one’s lifestyle is the connection needed by a lot of people, but unfortunately they fail in the latter.
SS: So is Majid Shafiq just a fitness-buff? Or do we have a foodie hidden away there somewhere?
MS: At the age of 42, I don’t train like an athlete anymore – so a balanced diet is the key for me. I enjoy chicken and fish for my protein intake. When it comes to greens, I enjoy a variety of foods and also a broad range of fibrous foods. My favorite dish has got to be Salmon with veggies or any baked Salmon dish.
SS: How do you manage to keep your own fitness levels up to the mark? Are there any specific workouts that you follow or do you just go with the flow?
MS: I have returned from a knee operation and my body fat has increased by 5% to 17% — so I follow a routine that incorporates High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), strength program and football specific agility and coordination. I still love the smell of football grass and I am always on a pitch with my son, doing speed-agility and quickness drills. Fitness for me is about movement efficiency – so I vary my routines a lot to incorporate cycling and walking too.
SS: Being a busy man, how do you take out the time to work-out on a daily basis?
MS: Family and fitness are my pass-times – I enjoy watching my children participate in their sports and it is part of the routine rather than a break from work for me. I even coach my son’s junior football team and through that I get to socialize with parents and other club officials. I also make time for prayers and the Quran. This is what keeps me on track to become the person I want and need to be.
SS: So how did you develop your love for football? Did it run in the family or you got fond of it on your own?
MS: I was named after Majid Khan, a cricketer – so learning about the sport of football was definitely which I did on my own. It happened in my primary school when I got selected to play for the team and was told I was good. I played with friends daily – sometimes up to three to four hours each evening and by my mid teens, I was popular as a player amongst those who knew me. I think that is what polished my skills. Football and my focus on athletic ability were a great rub off to those who knew me and I enjoyed seeing others take up sport. As a teenager I excelled to become a semi professional and was praised on numerous occasions. I played till the age of 29 but sadly I had to retire because of a left knee injury.
SS: Which club team and international team do you support?
MS: When it comes to club teams, I support Manchester United. As far as international teams, I support England and Pakistan.
SS: Who is your favorite player and why?
MS: Bryan Robson and Edgar Davids – My type of athletic and Gutsy CM’s.
SS: How does it feel to be a certified coach from the England Football Association?
MS: I have been a certified coach since 1991. It’s immensely special when combined with my education in sport and all the experience that Allah (SWT) has poured onto me. I am qualified as a coach in nine different sports categories and each one of them compliments the other.
SS: Was it a tough journey or more like a walk in the park?
MS: As far as coaching is concerned, I found it easier, when combined with my academics in sport – I was always different and much deeper than other coaches and easily applied psychology, physiology as well as technical ideals in my sports. My education in the field gave me the edge. Having had 25 years experience as a coach at just 42-years, I feel blessed and confident.
SS: Recently, with your guidance, K-Electric qualified for the AFC Cup 2016 Qualifiers. How did you feel when you heard the news? Could you please share a memory with us regarding the event?
MS: I always wanted to do something for Pakistan sports and never imagined it would be with KE. I was the only person who cried after the second match. My eyes were washed with tears. My players congratulated and hugged me with warmth. I felt that somehow I had helped changed the destiny of football and this success will affect many lives, including my own. My children arrived after I retired from sport as a player – so they never saw me play. But as a coach, they saw their father help their country of origin. My family and parents were immensely happy on my achievements for Pakistan sports. These things mean a lot to an emotional person and I am very emotional for my family and my country.
SS: You stepped down from the position of head coach at KE; do you feel it was the right decision to make or you regret it?
MS: I thought very hard and I have been asked to return twice since. K-Electric is part of me now and will always be. I have an open mind and if K-Electric is to be part of my future then it will be. I stepped down so someone else could step up and I will always be there as a mentor. Yes, it actually does feel like a regret since a lot of players and people have asked me to reconsider. As I say, the door is open and I do want to see K Electric succeed and, you never know, it might be me there with them ahead in the future.
SS: Sir, you also run an NGO by the name of APFA. Can you please describe the story on how you got the idea to make such an organization?
MS: APFA is a non-profit organization that I established in April 2015 to be a consultative body to develop football at every level in Pakistan that involves from mass participation increase to identifying and developing elite talent. I want my as well as other children to have a future in sport as Pakistani, representing their country with pride. So APFA is here to bring Pakistan football towards the global elite level and we intend on doing this by increasing the level of expertise in all aspects of the sport.
SS: How well is APFA doing and how do you see football being influenced by it?
MS: Well, it was APFA that got me into K-Electric and without it there would be no continental success. To be honest, we are just starting and have high ambitions and hopes. We have employed about eight coaches and managers and intend to be self-sufficient and create more jobs and opportunities for talented footballers.
SS: What are your thoughts on the brand of football that Pakistan plays? What do you think is the main problem is behind Pakistan’s failure to excel?
MS: I disagree that we have immense talent compared to elsewhere in the globe. Players are starting too late and not getting the early years of fundamentals and movement coaching. It means they lack behind players in Japan, Thailand, UAE etc by the time they become teenagers. We have to start training players at the right age and there is a seriously poor know-how and standard of coaching in Pakistan. It appears to be ripped off from other systems with no basis and philosophy and we at APFA are changing that. Poor coaching and corruption in the sport is what’s holding back the game of football in Pakistan. There is too much nepotism and then too little knowledge of how to develop players and get them to perform. At K-Electric, I changed it all – total selections on merit and the appropriate coaching and leadership style needed to make a team deliver and grow.\
SS: How can the problems get solved?
MS: APFA – We bring everything as it should be and need support to expand quickly. If we do then football will never look back, as we have a European hand with Pakistani origin people running it.
SS: Sir, what would your message be to the youth in general and those who want to pursue their career in football?
MS: Football is a wonderful experience and to have it as a career is an ultimate experience. However, to develop to the required level demands sacrifice learning, concentration and the ability to change. Players must be surrounded by good peers and coaches as without either of them, their overall standard will be very poor. The solution is to start early and get into national squads and test your talent against foreign opponents. In the future, more opportunities will come about for the best talent to play abroad and we promise that at APFA. Don’t worry about a poor federation and a poor league – set your own standards and approach experts to excel.
Thank you sir, for giving us your time; it was an honor and an absolute privilege.