by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira has said that Pakistan had improved and would be in a good shape at Asian Games, slated to be held in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
“Yes, physical fitness of the boys has improved a lot. We are now focusing on tactical and other aspects,” Jose told ‘The News’ from Lahore on Tuesday. “We are weighing minutely every aspect such as the players’ positions in the team. I am hopeful we will be able to prepare a good lot ahead of the Asian Games,” Nogueira said.
He was quick to add that a lot of hard work was still required to bring the team into a perfect shape.The Asian Games will be tough for the Green-shirts as they have not played a single international match for three years because of a long feud between groups of officials.
In the Asiad, Pakistan have been clubbed in Group D with strong Japan, Vietnam and Nepal. Pakistan, training since May 25, will tour Bahrain from July 15 to 30 for a few practice matches.
Nogueira said that they were planning to play at least five matches on the tour. “We are planning to arrange at least five matches. These may be against Bahrain’s Under-23 team and some of the clubs,” Nogueira said.He said that Pakistan’s touring party would consist of 30 players and six officials.
Bahrain has been contributing a lot to Pakistan’s football development due to friendship between the PFF chief Faisal Saleh Hayat and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, who belongs to Bahrain’s royal family. Nogueira’s presence in Pakistan is also due to Bahrain’s assistance.
In the Asian Games an under-23 team, along with three senior players, will be fielded. Pakistan’s Denmark-born skipper Hassan Bashir has joined the camp. He will go to Bahrain with the team but will not be part of the Asian Games squad which the coach said would be announced after the Bahrain tour.
Nogueira said Hassan needed some time to achieve top shape. “Yes, he has joined us and is very serious. He will need some time to get rhythm,” the coach said.It is likely that the Danish striker will be part of the team for the SAFF Cup, to be held in Dhaka from September 4-15.
Pakistan have been placed with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan in the group in the SAFF Cup which the Green-shirts have never won.‘The News’ learnt that former Pakistan captain Kaleemullah would not be part of the team in Asian Games and SAFF Cup.
Kaleem, who trained with the team on Monday, is going to tie the knot in the next few days before leaving for Turkey to play Turkish league which will begin after August 20. Danish keeper Yousuf Butt will join the team on July 17 in Manama. He will be one of the three senior players in the Asian Games squad.
Nogueira is being assisted in the camp by former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa and Mohammad Habib as assistant coaches. Shehzad Anwar, who is Director Technical of PFF, is serving as technical coordinator of the team.