Lahore, 4 October : “ Overseas players Iltaf Ahmed, Zeeshan Rehman, Adnan Ahmed, Amjad Iqbal played their part brilliantly when we forced the Asian Powerhouse and Asian Champion Iraq scoreless draw at Damascus in 19th World Cup Qualifier three years ago. The credit to motivate expatriates to represent Pakistan goes to Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s President Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat who is making all out efforts for the uplift of soccer in Pakistan.” this is stated by Akhtar Mohiuddin, the head coach of National U23 team which appear in soccer event of XVI Asian Games to be held under Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) at Chinese city Guangzhou from 12-27 November 2010. The camp is in progress at Lahore’s Punjab Stadium and Model Town Football Academy Ground.
Chaman-born Akhtar added : “Overseas football players of Pakistan origin are showing willingness to play for their country and it will help further in promoting the game besides motivating the youth to take up soccer as a sport. Pakistan soccer has become a source of interest for foreign players and for this very reason European-born Usman Gondal, Zeshan Rehman represented national team in 2005, followed by Kashif Siddiqi who played for Pakistan Olympic team in 2007. A battery of foreign players were in Lahore in 2007 when Pakistan camp was installed for clash against Iraq and 36th AFC U19 Championship. Fraaz Ahmed, Zesh Rehman, Adnan Farooq Ahmed, Amjad Iqbal, Iltaf Ahmed, Adam Luke Karim, Fouzal Azeem Bashir, Assad Ahmad, Suffean Mahmood were inducted in Camp for two-legged World Cup Qualifiers against Iraq. The AFC U19 Championship at Tehran saw youngsters from Britain – Irfan Khan, Usman Hussain, Umar Farooq Javed, Khurram Shahzad and Haroon Ishaq.
Next in line was Atif Bashir , now playing Welsh league for Barry Town. “Born to a British Pakistani father and a Turkish German mother, Atif could have theoretically played for Germany, Turkey, either of the British Home Nations, as well as Pakistan to whom he eventually chose. He made debut for Pakistan in the 2008 SAFF Championship against the host Maldives, followed by matches against India and Nepal,” said Akhtar
Austria-born coach George Kottan was instrumental in giving Pakistani jerseys to Shabir Khan (Worcester City FC) and Reis Ashraf (Leamington FC) in 2009 when they wore Pakistan color in SAFF Championship 2009 alongwith other European-based players Amjad Iqbal, Atif Bashir and Adnan Ahmed. Asian Games football probable list include new comers like Danish brothers Yousuf Butt, Yaqoob Butt plus Shani Qayum, Aneel Azeem. and Bilal Butt
Akhtar said that before 2003, hosting the foreign teams was never that easy because the previous PFF’s management used to avoid foreign teams in Pakistan in order to save the federation from financial burden. The present PFF chief took a brave decision of hosting home matches against formidable outfits UAE, Oman, Jordan, Qatar, Iraq, Bahrain.
Akhtar, part of the coaches’ panel when Pakistan defeated India in the inaugural Indo-Pak series 2005, called Faisal Saleh Hayat’s reign from 2003-2009 as “Golden Years of Pakistan Football” and under his dynamic leadership football earn title of happening sport. His decisions and plannings will put Pakistan to its deserving spot in future as he is concentrating hard on grass-root level and Youth Development Programs.
Akhtar appreciated the football promotion work under the leadership of Faisal Saleh Hayat and said that the time is near when Pakistan will be among top playing nations of Asia. He is convinced that standard of the game in Pakistan has improved in recent years and in its pursuit to achieve the aim setforth in Vision Pakistan, the standard of football will further improve in Pakistan.