Tuesday, May 01, 2012 [The News]
KARACHI: Pakistan Under-22 football team will write history when they embark on their maiden tour of Palestine in the second week of this month to feature in the Al-Nakba International Football tournament to be held there from May 14-22.
Following Palestine football team’s visit to Pakistan last year, the Greenshirts were expected to pay a reciprocal visit to Palestine in May, but their dreams to play for the first time on the Palestinian soil were shattered because the Israeli government refused to issue NOC to the Palestine Football Association for the proposed tour.
However, this time the football authorities in the country (PFF) are confident that the tour would be made without any hindrance.“I think it would be a smooth sailing for the team this time. We have already applied for the visas and hopefully we will get them soon,” a top official of the PFF told ‘The News’ on Monday.
A 25-member team will leave for Palestine in the early hours of May 13. All the players that recently toured Thailand except the unfit Scotland-based Waleed Nadeem have been called for the short camp which will kick off at Lahore from May 7.
However, coach Zavisa Milosavljevic said that Waleed would join the camp for the Asian Cup Qualifiers to be held in Saudi Arabia from June 23 to July 3.A bunch of key players of the touring team are engaged with their parent department Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) for the forthcoming AFC President’s Cup Group matches to be held at the Punjab Stadium from May 8-12. However, these players will be able to go along with the national team after playing their last game of the event on May 12.
Zavisa said the tour would help Pakistan gain international experience which would subsequently help the boys to utilise it in the Asian Cup Qualifiers in Saudi Arabia where Pakistan would be playing against Kyrgyzstan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Sri Lanka. “I think it will be a good opportunity for our boys to gain some experience by playing in a competitive event,” the Serbian told ‘The News’ on Monday while on his way to Bahawalpur where he is expected to pick a few more players during the Under-22 National Football Championship currently in operation at the Dring Stadium there.
“We are always in dire need of international matches and Palestine tour will offer us the same which will help us to compose and prepare the side for the slots in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Apart from Pakistan and hosts Palestine, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iraq, Mauritania, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Jordon and Uzbekistan are scheduled to feature in the tournament. The teams will be divided into three groups to compete in a round robin format before one team from each group and the best third-placed side will make it to the semifinals to be held on May 20. The final will be conducted on May 22.
The friendly tourney is being organised by the Palestine Football Association to mark the 64th anniversary of the Al-Nakba.Meanwhile, according to media reports, Vietnam will be sending their Under-19 team for the competitions. They are undergoing training at the Vietnam Youth Training Centre and will depart for Palestine on May 11.
Indonesia have also started their camp at Yogyakarta under their new coach Nil Maizar who took over after the Under-22 team coach Aji Santoso was handed a four-match ban and $6,500 fine by FIFA for controversial remarks he made after the country’s humiliating defeat at the hands of Bahrain in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match.Pakistani players will also get the opportunity to offer prayers at Baitul Maqdis.