By Alam Zeb Safi,
KARACHI: Despite having failed to secure international friendlies, Pakistan football team coach Mohammad Shamlan on Wednesday said his charges would give tough time to their strong rivals in the 2016 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship Qualifiers Group B to be held at Al Qattara Stadium in Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from May 16 to 20.
“This is the first time I am facing an odd situation as we did not get international matches for preparation. May be the authorities were unable to manage so because the qualifiers were rescheduled twice and it may also be due to the elections at home. But I always keep faith in my players and hope we will give a tough time to strong sides like Jordon and Kuwait,” Shamlan told ‘The News’ hours before Pakistan team’s departure for UAE on late Wednesday night.
Turkmenistan pulled out of the event a few days ago that reduced the number of competitors to four with Kyrgyzstan also playing.
The qualifiers were earlier pencilled in for March 23 to 31 at Lahore but were postponed following suicide attacks on churches at Youhannabad area on March 15. The incident had also forced FIFA to shift Pakistan’s second-leg tie of World Cup Qualifiers against Yemen to Manama.
Shamlan said he wants to give Pakistan a good news before his two-year contract expires in July.
“I always hope for positive outcomes. I want to give Pakistan something before I will quit this July,” the coach said.
“I have also scouted six to seven under-19 players. They could not be included in the touring party because they were not registered for the competitions. They can be used in the AFC Under-19 Championship qualifiers,” said Shamlan.
Shamlan said Saddam Hussain would serve as Pakistan’s skipper in the qualifiers, while Saqib Hanif would be their frontline goalie. Gloveman Muzammil Hussain had to miss the event due to injury.
When asked if Bahrain Football Association (BFA) offered him to stay as Pakistan’s coach, the coach said, it would be up to him to decide about his future.
“The same matter has not been discussed by BFA with me. May be they discuss it with me in coming days. Truly speaking, my heart does not want to quit as Pakistan coach. I still have not decided about that. I always respect my contract and will work hard till it expires,” Shamlan said.
The other day a PFF top official told ‘The News’ that they had requested BFA to extend Shamlan’s contract.
The PFF wants to have him for the next five years. The BFA pays Shamlan for his services as Pakistan coach.
“Being a professional coach you need a good programme, money, international games very month and good facilities,” Shamlan said.
“I am thankful to the officials for the respect and support they gave me during my stay in Pakistan,” he said.
“May be I did not achieve results but still we played well against India, Nepal and Afghanistan. A coach needs more time for producing results,” Shamlan said.
In Al-Ain, Pakistan will face Jordon on May 16, Kuwait on May 18 and Kyrgyzstan on May 20.
The competitions of other groups have already been completed. Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Syria, Australia, DPR Korea, Korea Republic, Japan and China have made it to next year’s 16-team tournament proper to be hosted by Qatar. Besides the group winners, five best second-placed sides will also make it to the tournament proper.
The Under-23 championship also serves as qualifiers for 2016 Rio Olympics, with the top three teams qualifying.
Squad: Saqib Hanif, Ihsanullah, Sheroz Ahmed, Usman Khan, Mohammad Sufyan Asif, Naveed Ahmed, Bilal Ashraf, Shehbaz, Shehram Babar, Mohsin Ali, Amir Siddiqui, Bilawal-ur-Rehman, Saddam Hussain (captain), Sanaullah, Mohammad Riaz, Faheem Ahmed, Bilal Sattar, Mansoor Khan, Saadullah, Habib-ur-Rehman.
Officials: Mohammad Shamlan (head coach), Hassan Baloch (assistant coach), Asghar Anjum (assistant manager), Mohammad Aslam (masseur).