KARACHI: After creating much hype over inviting foreign players of Pakistani descent to the national camp being held in preparation for the Asian Games, to be held in Guangzhou, China from November 12 to 27, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has taken a somersault by stopping two valuable players from coming to Pakistan.
The PFF on Thursday issued directives to the agents of 20-year-old Danish goalkeeper Yousuf Butt and British-born midfielder Adnan Farooq Ahmed to stop them from coming to Pakistan and joining camp, just when they were all set to appear for trials and represent the country of their forefathers.
It was only a few weeks ago that the PFF had circulated one press release after another about calling professional footballers with excellent records from foreign clubs and leagues to help Pakistan shine in the Asian Games football event.
But many of the players mentioned by them are no longer there in the list of probables. At first, they were confronted by bad luck when three of the preferred lot became unfit, with defender Shabir Khan injuring his knee and Amjad Iqbal down with a fractured leg.
Then Ash United striker and boxers Amir and Haroon Khan’s cousin Aneel Azeem, too, had to be dropped due to a chest infection. And now it is goalkeeper Yousuf and midfielder Adnan who have been stopped in their tracks due to reasons best known to PFF.
When contacted by Dawn on Thursday, PFF Secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi confirmed the development while pointing towards the issues restricting the players in joining camp. “Yousuf didn’t send his passport details in time therefore he is out as the deadline for it has also passed,” he said.
“As for Adnan, well there was some sort of a confusion about his being available or not. As for the rest like defender Atif Bashir and midfielder Raees Ashraf, they are expected to join camp on October 28 when they arrive here.”
Meanwhile, there are rumours taking rounds that the boy from Denmark had been stopped from coming here because team coach Akhtar Mohyuddin wanted one of his favourites Jafar Khan as the goalkeeper for Asiad.
However, speaking to Dawn on Thursday, Akhtar said that the rumours were baseless. “I would never compromise on national interest. I only go for merit. So what the others are saying is not true,” he said.
“You have to understand that there are a set of rules and regulations, which have to be followed. There was a deadline set by the Asian Games organizers in China for us to send them the names, photographs, passport details, etc., of the probables for accreditation purposes and the boy from Denmark failed to send in his details in time,” he explained.
“Even today, we approached the Pakistan Olympic Association to convince them to make an exception for Yousuf but what can we do when we are told that rules are rules. Our hands are tied,” he added.
When reminded that the forthcoming event was an under-23 competition and according to Asian Games rules only three players above that age were allowed within the team while goalkeeper Jafar Khan was pushing 30, Akhtar said that he still was their best available choice. “Jafar will be one of our three players who are above 23. Being named the best goalkeeper in the NFCC earlier this year, he is a great goalkeeper, too. Even our new Coaching Consultant Graham Roberts recognizes his talent and ability. So there is no issue of favouritism on my part. Even if Yousuf Butt had fulfilled all the requirements, we would have still taken Jafar to China as our back-up goalkeeper,” he said.
About the omission of midfielder Adnan, Akhtar said: “He had been signed on by Football Club Aboumoslem in Iran and there was always a question mark over his availability. Then he, too, is above the age of 23.
“So we put our heads together and decided to focus on our weakest point, which is our defense line. The central defenders and goalkeeper happen to be the spinal column of the team and we decided to opt for the three most proven players in that area, who are Samar and Ishaq, the two central defenders and goalkeeper Jafar.”
“All three are over 23 but they are the ones we need at the moment so Adnan, who is a midfielder and not a defender, we can do without for now as we can’t take on a fourth over-23 player,” he explained while also dimming foreign defender Atif Bashir’s chances of making the team.
The players’ agents, however, claimed that Yousuf’s passport was made on Sept 22 and sent to the PFF on the 23rd while the squad submission for probables was made on Sept 25.
They further added that Yousuf had even booked his ticket as the PFF until Thursday didn’t even inform him about the documentation problem. About Adnan Farooq, they said that they had confirmed his availability from day one but the PFF ignored him.
Meanwhile, Akhtar also mentioned that the PFF was already facing criticism in the press for inviting players from abroad and was under pressure to give preference to the local boys.
The football camp, which is currently underway in Lahore, will move to Islamabad on October 27 with the foreign players still on PFF’s list expected to join it a day later.
The team, placed in Group ‘F’ with Oman, Thailand and Maldives, leaves for China on November 4.