Sports Correspondent – The News
KARACHI: Carrying hope of a better show, Pakistan football team will leave for South Korea from Sialkot on Thursday (today) to feature in the Asian Games football slots, to be contested from September 14 to October 3.
“Yes, the team will leave for Korea from Sialkot via Dubai at 10 am tomorrow and will reach Incheon by the evening,” Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Wednesday.
“Because we did not get flight from Lahore so we opted to catch a Dubai-bound aircraft from Sialkot,” Lodhi said.
A bad news for Pakistan is that besides injured Faisal Iqbal and Bilawal-ur-Rehman Pakistan will also be missing their key winger Mohammad Adil for this important assignment.
“Adil will also not be part of the Korea-bound team because he has not fully recovered,” Lodhi revealed.
Adil, who plays for Kyrgyzstan’s top club Dordoi Bishkek, had also missed matches on India’s tour despite being part of the touring party last month due to knee-injury.
The diminutive, nimble-footed player had also been kept with the team on the subsequent tour of Bahrain in the last week of August. He played a game in Manama and the team officials were hopeful that he was on the path of recovery. But it did not happen.
Defender and vice captain Faisal and midfielder Bilawal developed injuries during India’s tour. They will take some time as on Tuesday too they visited hospital for check-up, a team official said.
However, Kyrgyzstan-based striker and captain Kaleemullah and midfielder Saddam Hussain were scheduled to return to Lahore on Wednesday night.
These players were earlier expected to go directly to Korea from Bishkek. “They had not got multiple visas and were expected to go to Korea directly from Bishkek. But we reconsidered that option as their accreditation cards were here and we decided that they should come here. They have reached Dubai from where they will come to Lahore tonight,” Lodhi said.
He was confident that the team would not be much affected by the absence of the trio. “They are good players. Their absence may slightly affect the team’s performance, but coach Mohammad Shamlan is confident that the team would deliver better,” Lodhi said.
In the Asian Games, Pakistan have been bracketed in Group F with North Korea and China, both of whom have World Cup experience. Two teams from the three-outfit pool will progress to the round of 16.
The Green-shirts will begin their campaign with the game against North Korea on September 18 and will face China on September 22.
The other day coach Mohammed Shamlan in an interview with ‘The News’ had admitted that his team’s group was tough but he believed in his charges.
On Wednesday, Pakistan team held their last training session at the City School Ground in Lahore.
Now only 17 players will be part of Pakistan team. Also, instead of six, five officials will accompany the squad as the physiotherapist has been dropped, a team source said.