KARACHI: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has called up 59 local-based players for the national team’s training camp for the Asian Games and the SAFF Suzuki Cup.
The Asian Games, which will see an Under-23 side take part alongside three over-age players, are due to be held in Indonesia from August 18 to September 2 with the SAFF Suzuki Cup being played from September 4 to 15 in Bangladesh.
The foreign-based players, including star strikers Kaleemullah and Hassan Bashir, will join the camp from its second stage next month.
Newly-installed PFF technical director Shahzad Anwar had vowed after the National Challenge Cup that the national team would see several new faces but he and Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira, another new appointment following the restoration of the PFF of Faisal Saleh Hayat, have not left out the experienced players.
There has also been a surprise recall for veteran K-Electric striker Mohammad Rasool. The 32-year-old hasn’t been called up to the national team camp since he failed to report for one in August 2012 under then-coach Zavisa Milosavljevic.
Pakistan internationals Saddam Hussain, Saqib Hanif, Mohammad Adil Mahmood Khan, Riaz Ahmed, Saadullah, Bilwal-ur-Rehman, Faisal Iqbal and Muzammil Hussain have all been called up even though Shehzad wasn’t too pleased with the performances of the big names at the Challenge Cup.
Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) duo Saddam and Saqib did not feature for their side at the Challenge Cup as they were playing for clubs in Northern Cyprus and Maldives respectively while Muzammil took his Wapda side to the final which they lost to Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
As many as 18 players from Wapda and PAF have been called up.
“There are no big names anymore,” Shehzad told Dawn after the Challenge Cup final. “We’ve seen a number of young players emerge, ready to take their places in the national team.”
After Nogueira, another Brazilian is set to join the national team management with the PFF having announced that trainer Beto Portello is scheduled arrive in the country very soon.
The camp is scheduled to begin at the PFF House from Friday and it remains to be seen how Nogueira prepares the team for the twin assignments where first he has to work with the Under-23 squad before shifting his focus to the senior team.
The PFF hasn’t indicated whether, like many of its Asian counterparts, it will hire a separate coach for the Under-23 team.
Amongst other the foreign-based players to join the second stage of the camp will be marksman Mohammad Ali and goalkeeper Yousuf Butt while the PFF is also trying to convince midfielders Ghayas Zahid and Adnan Mohammad to play for Pakistan.
Ghayas, who also holds a Norwegian passport plays for Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia and the PFF were left embarrassed a few months ago when they contacted his former club Valerenga to enquire for the player’s availability.
Fellow midfielder Adnan has been one of the top performers for Danish Superliga side Helsingor this season and sources have told Dawn that he is seriously considering playing for Pakistan.
The announcement of the training camp for the men’s team, however, has drawn ire from the national women’s team captain Hajra Khan.
Hajra was critical of the PFF management on social media where she said that the country’s football governing body wasn’t planning to field the women’s team at the Asian Games.
“Not a single effort has been made to revive women’s football ever since [the PFF was restored],” Hajra wrote on Twitter.
Probables: Ghazanfar Yaseen, Mehdi Hasan, Mohammad Sohail, Sufyan Asif, Mohammad Sohail Khan, Mansoor Khan, Faisal (all Pakistan Air Force), Muzammil Hussain, Abdul Basit, Saadat Hussain, Umer Hayat, Mohsin Ali, Mohammad Bilal, Ali Uzair, Adeel Ali, Ahmed Faheem, Shahram Babar, Mohammad Ahmed (all Wapda), Istaqlal (Pakistan Petroleum Limited), Ali Khan, Waseem, Zain, Zaid Umer, Noman (all Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority), Usman Khan, Faisal Iqbal, Sanaullah, Maqbool, Munir Junior, Sher Ali (all National Bank of Pakistan), Mohammad Osman, Shahzaib Masood (both Pakistan International Airlines), Arsalan Ali, Mohammad Shahid, Umair Ali, Rajab Ali, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Mohammad Adil, Danish Hameed, Yousaf (all Khan Research Laboratories), Ahsanullah, Saqib Hanif, Tanveer Mumtaz, Bilawal-ur-Rehman, Mahmood Khan, Saddam Hussain, Saadullah, Razik, Habib-ur-Rehman, Waqar Baloch, Amjad Hussain (all Sui Southern Gas Company), Mubashir (State Life), Naveed Ahmed (Pakistan Navy), Basit Amin (Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited), Riaz Ahmed, Mohammad Rasool, Murtuza Hussain, Waseem Shahzad (K-Electric), Shahbaz Younas (Pakistan Army).