Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Kathmandu
With Pakistan’s spectacular tie against India just around the corner, tempers are bound to flare on the pitch as the two sets of players battle for glory.
The Pak Shaheens have called upon their foreign contingent in Hassan Bashir, Zesh Rehman, Yousuf Butt, Yacoob Butt and Adnan Ahmad, players which new coach Mohammad Al-Shamlan will be relying on to secure victory.
With India’s dual-nationality rule preventing them to do the same, the Bengal Tigers have made do with what they have at home along with naturalized Indian Arata Izumi, who is of Japanese heritage but has played for the National team since January.
An attacking midfielder at I-League’s most professional club, Izumi revealed that he is particularly looking forward to the opening tie and maintaining India’s superior winning streak in the Championship.
“It’s a pressure, but we have to take it in a good way. We have to keep our record. It’s always exciting to play against a rival team,” the former East Bengal man said in an exclusive interview with FootballPakistan.
Commentating on India’s chances, the playmaker claimed that the team was raring to go and was hopeful of making a positive impressive, despite making his debut for the regional giants in January.
“It has been a great experience for me and I am enjoying here with great players . And out of 10 editions of the SAFF Championship, we have won it six times. So we have to maintain that record.”
“We are going to give our best so that we get the best result for India,” he added.
While Arata Izumi has been enjoying his time with the National Team, the same cannot be said for Wim Koevermans, who has come under scrutiny after India failed to qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup and emphatically lost their friendly against Tajikistan.
Nonetheless, the Dutchman was quite confident of his side’s chances to grab silverware once again.
“We are going to win it.”
“We want to win the tournament and we will have to play 5 finals. Everybody calls our group, ‘the group of death’, so we have to play tough games,” added Koevermans while speaking to FootballPakistan.
Talking about Pakistan’s foreign-based players, Wim admitted that South-Asians playing abroad was a good thing, but was coy about whether that would give Pakistan an edge over India.
“I don’t know, we only have home-based players. So let’s wait and see. If the players don’t play in their country and play abroad, that’s good for them,” the 53-year-old was quoted as saying.
Pakistan take on Indian on 1st September at the Darasath Rangasala Stadium.