For Kaleemullah, the tour was a part of a transition phase for Pakistan football. “This tour was important. Most of the players made their international debut on the tour,” said Kaleemullah, who scored the only goal for the national side in the match.
“This was just a friendly match to prepare the side for the AFC U22 Cup,” he told The Express Tribune. “A defeat is a defeat, but the important thing is that this team has the potential. I was very impressed with the talent. People need to understand that these players need time, confidence from within and from the federation, besides more international exposure.”
According to Kaleemullah, the head coach, Mohamed Shamlan, advised the team to enjoy their game and do not worry about the results because winning and losing is part of the game. “It’s a new team and one should not expect instant results,” he said. However, he admitted playing against a seasoned side like Lebanon was a challenge.
Kaleemullah added that playing against a more seasoned side like Lebanon was also a challenge and the new players need more opportunities to compete and prove their worth against better teams.
“New players are motivated. We played well in Lebanon but we need to be more fit and also need to spend more time in the gym,” said the 21-year-old.
PFF Secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi agreed with the striker. The friendly tour’s results were not bad, he said. “The Federation is trying to arrange more international matches for the team,” he added. “The AFC U22 event has been rescheduled, and instead of July, it may take place later. We want to give exposure to this team and Thailand is one of the countries we want to play with.”
‘Finding our own football style’
Assistant Coach Tanveer Ahmed disclosed that Shamlan has been planning to change the playing style of national players for the past few months.
“For now, Shamlan wants to focus on new players. He wants to cobble together a team that can give results in the future. Shamlan wants the team to find its own style of playing.”
“We will work on that during the next three to four tours,” said Ahmed.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2014.