Sports Correspondent – The News
KARACHI: Pakistan’s SAFF Cup preparations received a heavy blow when the Greenshirts tour to Bangladesh was cancelled as the Bangladesh Football Federation (PFF) failed to stick to the original schedule due to a country-wide strike.
“Due to the strike call from the Islamists on August 13 and 14 Bangladesh Football Federation has declined to hold friendly games against Pakistan national football team as per schedule on August 13 and 16,” a PFF press release on Sunday said. “Consequent to this last minute decision of the BFF, PFF has cancelled its team’s Bangladesh tour,” it said.
However, the PFF said that the national team would play a friendly against Afghanistan as per schedule.
“In order to prepare for the SAFF Cup scheduled to be held in Nepal from September 1 to 11, Pakistan team will, however, leave for Kabul on August 19 to play a friendly against Afghanistan on August 20 in Kabul,” it confirmed.
Bangladesh’s Jamaat-i-Islami has called a nationwide strike after one of its veteran leaders and the party’s secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid was jailed for 90 years.
A PFF official told this correspondent that the cancellation was a big loss to Pakistan’s preparations for the SAFF Cup. “It is definitely a huge loss for us as the team would have got ample exposure before the SAFF Cup,” said the official.
Earlier, BFF told media on Sunday afternoon that Pakistan cancelled the tour due to unavoidable circumstances. “Pakistan national football team has cancelled its scheduled tour to Dhaka due to unavoidable circumstances. Pakistan football team was scheduled to arrive at Dhaka on Sunday and play two practice matches against BFF XI on August 13 and the Bangladesh national team on August 16,” the BFF website said.
Meanwhile, sources said that a BFF official had telephoned the PFF at around 3:30pm on last Thursday and had told them that they would not be able to play the first game scheduled for August 13 against Pakistan due to strike.
They were ready to host Pakistan later but Pakistan had their commitment with Afghanistan and therefore they had to decide against the entire tour.
Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic was also upset by the development. “Definitely it’s a huge disappointment,” Zavisa told this correspondent on Sunday.
“Friendlies would have helped us to confirm where we are,” he said. However, he was quick to add that his team would still be able to prepare well for the SAFF Cup. “I am sure that we will prepare well for the coming SAFF Cup and believe that we will beat India in our first game,” the Serbian hoped.
After the disappointing development, the PFF top officials have now started thinking about alternative of Bangladesh tour in order to overcome the loss. “We are thinking now whether we should send the team early to Nepal for a few days’ camp or to any other country ahead of the SAFF Cup,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi said.