by Umaid Wasim
KARACHI: His immediate aim is to impress during his time at his new club B.G. Sports Club and said he will only look forward after his first season.
“I want to give my best here before looking ahead,” Pakistan international goalkeeper Saqib Hanif told Dawn on Tuesday after joining the Maldives side on a season-long deal.
“If I do well, my contract might be extended to another year and if I do well, maybe doors to Europe or elsewhere will also open for me.
“But first I’ve to do the right things right here.”
The gloveman will become the second Pakistan international to play for the Maldives’ top-tier club, following in the footsteps of former Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) team-mate Saadullah who featured for B.G. Sports last year.
“I spoke with Saad about the club and he helped me reach a decision to move to Maldives,” Saqib, who previously featured for Pak-Elektron Limited (PEL) and K-Electric before joining KRL in 2011, said.
“I like the club and the place already.”
Saqib became the latest player to leave the KRL squad that dominated Pakistan football at the turn of this decade, winning three successive Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) titles from 2012-2014.
They also reached the final of the AFC President’s Cup in 2013 — an achievement that saw their players attract foreign attention.
Striker Kaleemullah, winger Mohammad Adil and Saddam Hussain left for Kyrgyz giants FC Dordoi with the former currently featuring in the United States for USL Pro side Tulsa Roughnecks.
Adil has since returned to KRL as he awaits a move to Maltese side Pembroke Athleta with Saddam having joined local rivals K-Electric after returning from Kyrgyzstan.
Saad also starred for KRL but joined B.G. Sports from Pakistan second-division side Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC).
Pakistan players have suffered with no international action since the national team went out in the first round of the marathon Asian qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup early last year.
Since then, a dispute in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has further seen the situation worsen with little domestic action that only returned with two cup events in the last couple of months.
With the PFF heading into its presidential elections last June, the country’s football governing body split into two factions after claims of incumbent president Faisal Saleh Hayat tampering with the constitution to keep himself in power.
It led to the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervening and calling for a stay on the polls but the Hayat faction went ahead with the elections.
The court subsequently issued a contempt notice to Hayat while appointing retired Justice Munir as an administrator until the issue is resolved.
And while world’s football governing body FIFA has tasked Hayat to correct the constitution and hold fresh polls within two years, the court has said any football activity in the country can only be carried out by Munir.
It led to Pakistan missing out on the SAFF Cup earlier this year.
Saqib, though, want to make up for lost time in the Maldives.
“The season starts on April 19 and I’m ready to show that despite adversity, Pakistan players can perform at a higher level,” he said.