By Alam Zeb Safi, The News
KARACHI: National footballers will assemble in Lahore on Monday (tomorrow) to begin preparations for their eagerly-awaited two-match series against India and the subsequent tour of Bahrain later this month.
“Yes, the players have been asked to report for the camp on Monday and from Tuesday proper training will begin,” Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Saturday.
Both the arch-rivals will face off at Bangalore Football Stadium on August 17 and 20. This would be after a long gap of nine years when the two neighbouring nations will be playing a bilateral series. Last time both the countries played a three-match series in Pakistan in June 2005.
Lodhi also confirmed that the country’s leading players Kaleemullah and Mohammad Aadil will be available for the series.
“Both will be part of Pakistan team for the India series. However, they will not be available for the tour of Bahrain to be held soon after the India series,” he informed.
After the Indian assignment Pakistan will directly proceed to Bahrain on August 21 to face Bahrain’s Olympic side on August 25. The Greenshirts will also play a couple of matches against the local clubs there on August 27 and 29.
Both Kaleem and Aadil are playing for the Kyrgyzstan’s top club Dordoi Bishkek on loan. Kaleem has recently renewed his contract and he will be part of the club for the next two years for which the Chaman-born player will be given Rs10 million.
Aadil’s contract with Dordoi will expire in December this year and it is likely that he will also be given extension because he has played extremely well for the club being managed by former Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic.
Lodhi said that the series against India would be an interesting one.
“You know, India have an edge over us both in terms of world rankings and international exposure. But our players will play with a real passion and spirit and that will matter a lot,” he said.
In the 2005 series, the first game between the two sides in Quetta had ended in a 1-1 draw. India then notched a 1-0 victory over Pakistan in the second show at the Qayyum Sports Complex in Peshawar to take 1-0 lead. But Pakistan fought back strongly and inflicted a crushing 3-0 defeat on the visitors in their third outing in Lahore to make it 1-1.
Pakistan have invited 30 players for the camp which will be supervised by Bahraini coach Mohammed Shamlan who will land in Lahore in the wee hours of Monday.
“Yes, 30 players will be part of the camp. We are happy that we will also have both Kaleem and Aadil on India’s tour. And especially we direly needed Kaleem because he is a fine striker and his recent stint with Dordoi will have further instilled a lot of confidence in him,” Pakistan’s assistant coach Hasan Baloch told this correspondent.
Apart from Hasan, former international defender Tanvir Ahmed, Asghar Anjum and Zahid Taj will be part of Shamlan’s support staff during the training camp.
Pakistan team will be given India’s visas in the next few days.
“All the formalities have been completed. Indian government has also given NOC and it will take us only a few days to get our visas,” Lodhi said.
The 27-member Pakistan team will fly out of Lahore for Bangalore via Dubai on August 15. After the tours of India and Bahrain, the team will return and will undergo a five-day training at the Punjab capital before flying for South Korea to feature in the Asian Games to be staged in Incheon from September 19 to October 4. However, the football event will begin a few days before the formal opening of the competitions.
After missing out the tour of Bahrain due to their club engagement in Kyrgyzstan, both Kaleem and Aadil will directly proceed to South Korea to represent Pakistan in the Asiad.