By FPDC Editor, Gauhar Mahmood Azeem
The first home game for the Pakistan Football team in ages sees them play Palestine in a two game Friendly series. The games, taking place in Lahore (1st March) and Karachi (4th March), pin two closely ranked AFC teams against each other providing both some much needed international action.
After the devastating attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore two years back, this is the first time an international team in any major sport is touring Pakistan. The tour thus will also satisfy the action thirsty local population with some international sporting action.
Football, the second most popular game in Pakistan, is the game to do it and a huge credit goes to the Federation for making this possible. These two internationals will also greatly promote, rather highlight, football in Pakistan. Even in cricket mad Pakistan the response to these games is looking highly positive, a testament to the popularity of the beautiful game in Pakistan.
Ranked 178th in the world, the Palestine team will serve as a realistic challenge to us. The Palestine team comes to Lahore having lost their Olympic Qualifier against Thailand, 1-0. Moussa Bezaz coached Palestinians will be looking forward to get results out of the two games to get some confidence before they head off to Thailand hoping for a victory against the White Elephants.
Victory will be on agenda for our Green Shirts too, as it will get the Lufti boys rolling before the return leg of the Olympic qualifier against Malaysia. Expected crowds of 10,000 in Lahore and 25,000 in Karachi will surely roar their team forward. Jadeed Khan and the boys are relishing these home games to get some wins and to prove themselves.
The Pakistan squad for these games is the same which played against Malaysia barring Yousuf Butt, who has been released from camp on request. Muhammad Omer’s splendid performance in Kuala Lampur shows that he won’t let the Denmark based goalie’s absence be felt much. The games would also see Irfan Khan fighting for a starting birth having recovered from an infection that ruled him out of the 23rd Feb game.
Tariq, Nasir and Gauhar will have to sort out the attacking side of the National team though. The last month has seen the National Team play 5 games abroad and score just 1 goal. Whether it is playing a lone striker or playing Kaleem Ullah as that lone striker, or both, we cannot say but things need to be sorted out quickly. You don’t win a game without scoring a goal, do you?
As far as the organizational matters go the management of the PFF has done a great job, credit where it is due. Arranging the games in such a time, getting TV coverage for the games, getting TV, Radio, Media and Internet partners for the event is a job well done. Ensuring free entry into the grounds for the audience is the icing on the cake. All this will be all the more sweeter and worthwhile if the actual National team, under the auspicious guidance of Tariq Lutfi and the leadership of Jadeed Khan, can win these games and give their fans some long overdue joy.
If the games don’t go well, there is no room for excuses. A 6 week camp, 2 weeks in Thailand, games against top sides, full facilities and home crowd are ideal. We are not wrong in demanding some performance in return, a performance much better than we saw against Malaysia.
The games are on the 1st of March, at the Punjab Stadium, Lahore and the 4th of March at Peoples Stadium, Karachi. Both games kick off at 7 p.m. PST.
FootballPakistan.Com is the official Internet partner for the event. Keep on checking our website for complete coverage and features regarding the much awaited ties.