Umaid Wasim – DAWN
KARACHI, Dec 4: The Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) is set for a ten-day break later this month with Pakistan head-coach Mohammed Al Shamlan calling up national team players for a training camp for the 2015 AFC U-22 Championship qualifiers to be held next year.
The draw for the qualifiers will be made after the inaugural edition of the U-22 tournament is played in Oman from January 11-26 next year. Originally scheduled to be played in June this year, the tournament was later shifted to 2014.
The second edition of the tournament is scheduled to be played in February 2015, with its qualifiers slated to be held next year.
“Shamlan has short-listed some players [from the PPFL matches in Karachi] in the last month and has called them for a training camp from December 12 to 21,” Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn on Wednesday.
“During this time, the PPFL games would not be played as most of our U-22 team players are virtually members of the national team squad.”
The 2015 AFC U-22 Championship will also serve as qualifiers for the football tournament at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
During his time in Karachi, Shamlan wasn’t much impressed at the quality of football at show in the PPFL.
“Our players lack in sense of the game,” Shamlan, who is also PFF’s technical director, told Dawn on the sidelines of one of the games of the PPFL last month. “We need to build that sense in the players — an eye for a pass, an eye for a goal.”
During the camp, his main objective will be help players improve on that.
The latest break in the PPFL would be another blow to an already chaotic schedule of the league, with this season seeing most games being affected due to the fixtures clashing with abruptly-called training camps and tours.
Earlier this year, some 20 fixtures were shifted to later dates after the national team took part in the Philippines Peace Cup.
Meanwhile, two games were played in the league on Tuesday with two-time defending champions Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) losing 1-0 to Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Karachi Port Trust (KPT) edging past Habib Bank Limited (HBL) 3-2.
Mansoor Khan struck a 33rd-minute winner for PAF at the Model Town Football Academy Ground in Lahore when he contolled a cross from the by-line before slotting it past KRL goalkeeper Saqib Hanif.
Victory helped PAF move up to 30 points from 16 matches, six off leaders Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) who have played 17.
KRL remain on 19 points from 11 games but head-coach Tariq Lutfi is optimistic his side can bounce back and revive their title defence by winning the six games they have on KESC.
“Our players need to regroup as we’re missing some easy chances in our games,” Lutfi told Dawn on Tuesday. “We’ve six games in hand on KESC and if we win them, we’ll go a point above them.”
Lutfi was also wary about the effect the national team camp will have on his players.
“I hope that the national team training camp doesn’t affect the performance of the players as our next games are crucial,” he added.
KPT are three points behind PAF after they overcame HBL in an entertaining game here at the KPT Stadium.
Mohammad Bin Younis opened the scoring for KPT just past the half-hour mark here before Mohammad Bilal pulled HBL level two minutes into the second-half. Second-half goals by Arsalan Asif (67th) and Junaid Qadir (82nd) put KPT 3-1 up before Bilal pulled one back in injury-time.
Also on Tuesday, Karachi United began their Group ‘B’ campaign in the Departmental Leg of the second-tier Pakistan Football Federation (PFFL) with a 2-1 victory over Pakistan Steel here at the Korangi Baloch Stadium.
Najeebullah opened the scoring for Karachi United in the 28th minute and Sameer doubled their lead in the 88th before Mohammad Tariq scored for Pakistan Steel in stoppage-time.
Karachi United now need a draw against Insaf Afghan GTC in their last group game to seal a berth in the five-team mini-league of the PFFL Departmental Leg to decide which team is promoted to the PPFL next season.