By Alam Zeb Safi,
KARACHI: Afghanistan’s football team will arrive in Lahore on Sunday (today) to play the one-off friendly against Pakistan on February 6 at Punjab Stadium in Lahore.
“Yes, they will reach Lahore tomorrow evening,” Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Saturday.
Previously, the teams clashed in Kabul in August 2013, one of the well-attended games in the history of Afghanistan football, where the hosts crushed the Green-shirts 3-0.
Both sides then moved to Nepal later the same month to feature in the SAFF Cup but they did not meet each other of being placed in different groups.
The entry for the fans will be free of cost.
Initially, Pakistan had requested Afghanistan for two showdowns but the Afghans agreed to play only one game.
The PFF said that the other clash between the two might be staged sometimes in April.
The friendly will help Pakistan’s Bahraini coach Mohammad Shamlan to prepare his senior side for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Pakistan will play in the first round of the qualifiers against unknown opponents on March 12 and 17 on home and away basis.
The good news for Pakistan is that former Fulham defender Zeeshan Rehman and Denmark-based Hassan Bashir will be part of the team for the match against Afghanistan.
German winger Sami Malik is also expected to join the team.
“Yes, these three foreign-based players will join us on February 4,” Shamlan told this correspondent.
However, he was quick to add that Sheffield United’s midfielder Otis Khan and Bahrain-based defender Mohammad Ahmed would not come.
“Ahmed is not coming because he would play a club match on February 5, while Otis has documents and visa issues which will see him miss the game,” he said.
The coach is hopeful that in the next camp Otis might join them. But the bad news for Pakistan is that the country’s star striker Kaleemullah and diminutive winger Mohammad Adil will not be part of the showpiece which is expected to be witnessed by a thick crowd.
“Both Kaleem and Adil are not coming because of their engagement with their club for the AFC Cup. But Saddam Hussain may join us because he is not registered in the team for the same competition,” he said.
It is pertinent to mention here that Ahmed is playing for Bahraini club ISA Town FC, while Kaleem, Adil and Saddam are playing for Kyrgyzstan’s top club Dordoi Bishkek being managed by Pakistan’s former Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic.
After the friendly against Afghanistan, Pakistani players will take a week-long rest before resuming their training for the World Cup qualifiers. The qualifiers will also serve as 2016 Olympic qualifiers.