KARACHI: National footballers will assemble in Lahore on Saturday (today) to kick-start their preparations for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and 2016 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship qualifiers to be held in March.
As many as 39 players, including four foreign-based professionals, have been asked to report for the camp, which will formally open from Sunday (tomorrow) at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore.
Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ from Lahore on Friday that the foreign-based players had been written letters to ensure their availability for the camp. “Otis Khan and Sami Malik have been told through letters to report by January 30. Zeeshan Rehman and Hasan Bashir are likely to come two or three days before the match against Afghanistan on February 6,” Lodhi said.
Otis Jan Mohammad Khan was born on September 5, 1995, in Ashton, 10 kilometers east of the city of Manchester.
Otis plays for Sheffield United, also known as the Blades, who take part in League One, the third-tier competition in the English football league system.
Sami Malik, 19, plays for Berliner FC Dynamo, who feature in Germany’s fourth-tier league Regionalliga Nordost. The Berlin-born winger joined the club on January 1, 2015.
Former Fulham FC defender Zesh Rehman and Danish striker Hasan Bashir have been playing for Pakistan for a long time.
In the 2016 AFC Under-23 championship qualifiers, Pakistan have been clubbed in Group B with Jordon, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. The Group B slots will be hosted by Pakistan at Punjab Stadium, Lahore. The event also serves as the qualifiers for the 2016 Rio Olympics. A total of 43 teams have been drawn into ten groups, with the ten group-winners and five best runners-up to qualify for the final round to be hosted by Qatar from January 12-30, 2016.
From there, only the top three nations will make it to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The Green-shirts will begin their campaign on March 23 against Turkmenistan, followed by encounters against Jordon on 25, Kuwait on 27 and Kyrgyzstan on 31.
In the World Cup qualifiers, Pakistan will play their first round matches on March 12 and 17 on home and away basis. The draws for the qualifiers will be unveiled on February 10.
The PFF is trying to manage a few international friendlies ahead of the vital assignments. “We are in contact with some countries and would like to arrange at least four international matches so that the team could prepare well,” Lodhi said.
Due to their engagement with their club Dordoi FC, Kyrgyzstan-based Kaleemullah, Mohammad Adil and Saddam Hussain are unlikely to be part of Pakistan’s senior team in their match against Afghanistan in Lahore.
Pakistan’s coach Mohammad Shamlan has also invited some fresh players who performed well in the recently-concluded Premier League.
The new players are goalkeepers Shehbaz (Army) and Ghulam Nabi (K-Electric), Naved (KPT), Murtaza Hussain (KRL), Najeeb-ur-Rehman (Army), Faheem Shah (KPT), Habib-ur-Rehman (PIA), Mohammad Tahir (Muslim FC), Shehram Babar (PIA), Mohammad Sufyan (PAF), Faheemullah (Army) and Gul Mohammad (Afghan FC).