by Alam Zeb Safi
LAHORE: Pakistan football team will tour Bahrain in the middle of July to prepare for the 18th Asian Games and SAFF Championship, a senior official of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) confirmed on Tuesday.
“The team will tour Bahrain from July 15 to 30,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’. He said that the PFF was planning to arrange another tour for the team which had not played a single international game during the last three years.
“We are trying to arrange another tour for the team. It may be of Thailand, Qatar, Malaysia or Indonesia. Let’s see what happens,” Lodhi said.He also revealed that 30 to 35 players would tour Bahrain.
“If another tour was arranged then some players, who will take part in the SAFF Championship, would return home and only those would go on the next tour who would become part of the Asian Games,” Lodhi said.
A team source said that Pakistan were expected to play at least four practice matches in Bahrain. Pakistan will return to international football after three years when they take part in the Asian Games slated to be held in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
The Asiad draws are yet to be unveiled. However, it is confirmed that it will be the biggest ever football competition in the history of the Asian Games as 32 outfits will feature in it. The teams will be divided into eight groups of four each with the leading one side from each pool progressing to the quarter-finals.
The football event of the Asiad, which will be held at four venues, will begin from August 14. Immediately after that Pakistan will go to Bangladesh to feature in the SAFF Championship which will be held from September 4-15.
In that seven-nation event Pakistan have been clubbed in Group A with the hosts and former winners Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Pakistan will play their first match against Nepal on September 4. They will play against Bangladesh on September 6 and Bhutan on September 8.
India, seven-time winners of the biennial event, have been placed in Group B with former champions Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Two teams from each group will make it to the semi-finals.
Pakistan players have been training at the Model Town Ground in Lahore since May 25 under Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira.He is being assisted by technical coordinator Shehzad Anwar, former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa and Mohammad Habib.
Brazilian trainer Jose Portella has also been delivering his services from the first day of the camp. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Denmark-based captain Hassan Bashir, who was due to arrive in Lahore on June 26, has changed his schedule and will now land in Punjab capital on July 6 to join the camp.
Former Pakistan captain Kaleemullah is expected to join the camp in the next few days. Kaleem, who plays for K-Electric, is the only home-based player who has been busy playing professional football for clubs in the US and Turkey for three years in which Pakistan’s other players remained inactive as there were no football activities because of legal issues.