by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) plans to manage a few international matches for its national side which will play in the Asian qualifiers first stage for the 2020 Olympics men’s football event to be held in Tokyo.
“We are in contact with several countries for managing some matches for our side as we are to play in the Olympic qualifiers next year. We would like our side (which will mainly have under-23 and some seniors) to get at least five matches against some better sides before the qualifiers,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Saturday.
“Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Qatar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and several others are on our radar. I don’t think in near future any tour will be managed but it may be done in a month’s time if things went in right direction,” Lodhi informed.
After over three years of inactivity of Pakistan’s football due to some legal issues, national teams (both Under-23 and seniors) finally featured in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and SAFF Championship which was held in Dhaka earlier this month.
Despite being away from international circuit for so long, Pakistan teams did a commendable job in both the events.
The nation also finished third in the SAFF Cup. Pakistan had last finished third in SAFF Cup in 1997.
Lodhi said that he was satisfied with the performance of Pakistan teams in the twin events, adding, effort would be made to provide maximum exposure to the players in a bid to prepare them for international challenges in future.
Lodhi also praised Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira and Brazilian trainer Jose Portella who did a fine job to extract the best out of the national brigades in these two events.
“Nogueira and Portella did a fine job and it is because of their efforts that our teams played well in Asian Games and SAFF Cup,” Lodhi said.
“Our effort to send the team to Bahrain for a few practice matches also contributed to the team’s output in these events,” the official said.
National players are currently busy in the Premier League which is in progress at the floodlit Qasim Bagh Stadium in Multan.
The league is being held after wasting three seasons on the trot due to legal issues.
About giving contracts to the top national players, Lodhi said that it all depends on the financial strength of the federation.
“Football cannot be compared with cricket which has more money. We always take care of the financial side of the players. You know we spent Rs20 million on Asian Games and SAFF Cup. Each player is given 150 dollars for an international match. We will also offer contracts to the boys in future if our financial position is strengthened,” Lodhi said.
To a query, Lodhi said that every effort will be made to make functional the various Goal Projects in the country.
He was quick to add that Sindh government’s assistance would also be sought as far as Karachi Goal Project was concerned.
“It’s a very important project and needs to be made active as soon as possible,” the official said.