Pakistani footballer becomes AFL Asia’s first ever level 2 coach

AUSTRALIA and Pakistan may have faced off in the T20 World Cup’s do or die semi-final overnight, but AFL NSW/ACT and Pakistan’s relationship has never been closer.

Earlier this year, AFL NSW/ACT’s Coaching Development and Education Lead, Ryan O’Keefe, accepted Inam Ul Haq’s application into the Level 2 coaching course.

This is a standard part of the job for O’Keefe, helping coaches to improve their craft. However, Ul Haq’s case was a little unusual – he lives in Pakistan.

No one from AFL Asia had ever received a Level 2 coaching accreditation before. It’s a challenging program for people who want to coach up to an AFL elite level. More than 14,000 players compete in AFL Asia in teams from China, Indonesia, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Japan, Myanmar, Philippines, Pakistan and Thailand.

Ul Haq’s passion for the game is clear. He’s known as someone who works hard at constantly promoting the game to anyone who will listen to him.

He administers, captains and coaches Tigers FC in Pakistan, which has won the national championships five times since 2014. One of the country’s best players, he has also represented Pakistan at the AFL International Cup’s most recent running in 2017.

O’Keefe considered Ul Haq no different to anyone else who applied for the coaching course.

“We run our Level 2 courses online, so it doesn’t matter where in the world you’re logging in from, you’re welcome to join,” said O’Keefe.

“There were a few language barriers when it came to presenting, so I told Inam not to stress about it too much and just write his theories and ideas on paper.

“His plans were really well articulated and very thorough. He worked hard and was a strong pass for the course.”

As for Ul Haq, he described his experience in the course as overwhelmingly positive.

“I learnt many things from the Level 2 course with Ryan – it was very good,” he said.

“I had never thought about some of the things we covered like coaching methods, planning, playing behaviour and others.

“I want every coach in AFL Asia to take part in coaching courses. It would be great for the game.”

Ryan O’Keefe talks to the Western Jets during a NAB League match in 2019. Picture: Getty Images

O’Keefe saw Inam Ul Haq’s journey through the coaching course as a pilot for others.

“AFL NSW/ACT is open to anyone looking to further their coaching skills,” he said.

“We’ll work with coaches to give them the best chance at improving their skills. We’re open to anyone.”

Ul Haq’s success at his coaching course made a splash in his home country, featuring on the Pakistan’s English-language international news channel PTV World.