Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: The national footballers were released on Friday to take a couple of weeks rest before they re-assemble at Lahore to resume their preparation for this year’s international assignments.
“We decided to give a few days rest to the players so that they could refresh themselves,” Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ after holding a meeting with the team’s coach Mohammed Shamlan at the PFF headquarters in Lahore on Friday.
“The players will report for the camp on March 4 and on March 5 formal training will begin,” Lodhi revealed.
Pakistan team reached Lahore in the wee hours of Friday after playing a friendly against Lebanon in Beirut on Wednesday in which the hosts defeated the visitors 3-1 at the Municipal Stadium.
Sources told this correspondent that PFF President Faisal Saleh Hayat wanted the players to continue the camp. But coach Mohammed Shamlan had thought otherwise. He wanted to give some rest to the players who were very tired due to their prolonged engagement in the Premier League and the subsequent weeklong camp in Lahore for the Lebanon tour.
Shamlan managed to convince the PFF authorities that the players needed rest.
Pakistan are preparing for the Under-22 Asian Cup Qualifiers and Asian Games to be held this year. Asian Cup Qualifiers are normally held in June-July, but Lodhi said that this time the event could be held later. “There is a chance that the qualifiers may be held in the end of this year. Our team will have to appear in the Asian Games first, so we will plan accordingly,” Lodhi said.
The Asian Games will be held in Incheon in South Korea from September 19 to October 4.
“We are considering arranging an international game for our team each month. Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai could be the destinations. For this we will try to hold camps intermittently,” Lodhi said, but he was quick to add that it was not easy to organise such tours.
“The Lebanon tour cost us Rs3.5 million in spite of the fact that the accommodation facilities had been provided to our team in Beirut by the Lebanon football authorities,” Lodhi said.
The PFF also intends to hold an international tournament in Lahore. “We are in touch with the Punjab government and are trying to invite a few countries for a meet,” Lodhi said.
He reiterated that no foreign-based player would be part of the Pakistan team in the forthcoming two international assignments.
Lodhi said that Shamlan was happy with his team’s performance in the friendly against Lebanon. “Yes, Shamlan is happy. He says that the team still needs a lot of attention. I am happy with the way the team played in the first half. But the second half performance was not satisfactory for me,” Lodhi said.
Shamlan is expected to leave for Bahrain on Saturday (today) to spend a few days with his family.