KARACHI: National footballers will assemble in Lahore on October 28 to begin their preparatory campaign for the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship pencilled in for December 2-12 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi.
The decision was made by the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) after the issue was thoroughly discussed with coach Tariq Lutfi, who will serve as Pakistan’s head coach in case a foreign expert is not roped in by the PFF.
Initially, Lutfi was not in favour of an early start of the camp but he had to compromise on the issue with the PFF because a delayed start could affect preparations for the important competition.
Lutfi has given a list of around 30 players to PFF for the camp. Only three foreign-based players including Britain-based Adnan Ahmad and Atif Bashir and Denmark-based striker Hassan Bashir have been included in the list.
However, these players have been advised to attend the camp within a week of its start otherwise they would not be considered for national duty. “Yes, foreign-based players will have to join the camp within a week of its start otherwise we would not be able to consider them,” PFF secretary Ahmad Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’.
While Atif and Adnan have been regularly playing for Pakistan for the last few years, Hassan Bashir, featuring in third-tier Danish league, will make his international debut if he is able to join the camp. Bashir, a talented forward, had been picked for the England series against India but unfortunately the two-match series was cancelled just a day before the team’s departure for London.
Star defender Zeeshan Rehman has not been invited for the camp. Apparently, the accomplished player was snubbed because he skipped the second leg of World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh in Lahore early this year because of security concerns.
The PFF had promised at that time that Zesh, who is also playing league in Thailand, will be provided with satisfactory security but still he did not dare to come to Pakistan. Among the home-based players almost all those boys, mostly Under23 who were picked for the England tour against India, have been retained.
There is also a possibility that the players will celebrate Eid-ul-Azha in Lahore because of a tough schedule. Before Pakistan’s tour to Thailand from November 22-29, efforts are also being made to send the Greenshirts to Indonesia for a week-long training tour.
“We are making efforts to arrange a tour of Indonesia as well for the team. And if it is finalised then the team would first go to Indonesia for a week and then to Thailand before leaving for New Delhi to feature in the SAFF Cup,” Lodhi disclosed.
The PFF may also hire a foreign coach in the meantime as they have short-listed around three coaches from France, Germany and Brazil and are negotiating with them.
It has been learnt that the demands of these coaches are over $10,000 per month. The government has already released fifty per cent of the approved Rs20 million special grant to the PFF which will help the federation up to certain extent to hire the services of a foreign coach.
Lutfi has already informed the PFF that he will quit as a coach in case a foreigner comes in. Gohar Zaman, Nasir Ismail and Aslam Khan will act as support staff during the camp.