By Alam Zeb Safi [Dawn]
KARACHI: Pakistan football team’s head coach Akhtar Mohiuddin is confident that his side will extend an honourable performance in the Asian Games pencilled in for November 12-27 in China.
“Though we will have to fight against some tough sides of the continent, but I am hopeful that we will extend an honourable performance,” Akhtar told ‘The News’ in an interview from Lahore on Sunday.
Akhtar, who replaced George Kottan after the Austrian quit his job after completing his one-year contract in February this year, said that the boys are catching momentum as the time progresses, saying, he is optimistic that a well-prepared side will be fielded in the China event.
In the last Asian Games held in Qatar in 2006, Pakistan had performed brilliantly against North Korea, Japan and Syria under Bahrain coach Salman Ahmad Sharida.
But this time, after former Pakistan captain Muhammad Essa’s refusal to come out of retirement, will leave a bad impact on the Pakistan Under-23 team’s showing in the Asian Games.
However, a plus point for the team is that prime goalie Jaffar Khan has reconsidered his retirement decision and ‘The News’ has learnt that he will be the sole gloveman of the side with most probably Aamir Gul as his back-up.
Defence is the main focus of Akhtar and he is trying to bring an enormous improvement in the area ahead of the China affair.
“ Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain etc are tough sides.x So I have been working on defence for the last one week,” Chaman-born Akhtar said.
“No doubt we have few good defenders and England-based Atif Bashir’s arrival will further boost the area,” the coach said.
Three-England players including Shah Noor, Aneel and Faraz Ahmad have already joined the camp in Lahore while Akhtar said that Butt brothers and Atif Bahsir are also expected to arrive soon.
The draws for the Asian Games will be held on October 20.
Plans are also being made to finalise a trip for the team to South Korea but it does not seem to be materialised.
However, coach Akhtar is waiting for such a tour which will help the side prepare better for the prestigious continental event.
“It would be good if the tour to South Korea is arranged,” Akhtar said.
The strength of the camp has been reduced to 24, barring the three England-based players, who are due to land in few days.