by Natasha Raheel
KARACHI: “Pakistan should be grateful to Palestine, they chose us to play a friendly with,” said Pakistan’s former captain Kaleemullah after the national side lost to Palestine 2-1 at Faisal Al- Hussaini Stadium in Al-Ram on Friday night.
Pakistan were clearly a lesser team at 199 to Palestine’s 99th position in the FIFA ranking, but more so due to the team’s inability to defend effectively and attack in an aggressive manner.
Pakistan took the lead after Bashir’s stellar goal in the 16th minute, however, Alexis Norambuena equalised it to make it 1-1 at half-time. Nazmi Albadawi sealed the win for Palestine in the 78th minute.
Kaleemullah was left out of the national team due to the Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) bullying tactics after the 25-year-old spoke about the nepotism, corruption and lack of professionalism shown by the officials at PFF. Footballer attributes the dismal state of Pakistan football to politician Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat who has been the chief since 2003.
Kaleemullah was called a ‘traitor’, ‘greedy’ and ‘unpatriotic’ by the PFF vice president, while coaches declared him unfit for the Asian games in August and South Asian Football Championship in September. However, he was welcomed by the Turkish clubs and has proven his skills after scoring his 100th career club goal last month.
He was a part of the team that last played Palestine in a friendly in 2014 at Punjab stadium and was the part of the side that played in the U22 squad at 2012 Palestine International Cup; also known as Al- Nakba Cup, where the team had played a draw 2-2.
Commenting on the latest friendly, Kaleemullah said the opening goal from Hassan Bashir was the only highlight of the match as the Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira seemed to be confused and made changes like substituting the goal-keeper Yousuf Butt, and failed to utilize new players in the squad.
“The highlight was of course Bashir’s goal, that touch and the score was great, but we were all over the place,” Kaleemullah told The Express Tribune.
Elaborating on the performance, which Kaleemullah thought was ‘not our best’ he added: “They were confident compared to our players. They were enjoying their match. We still need to go a long way.”
However, Kaleemullah lauded Palestine for continuing to liaise with the Pakistan football team. “Palestine have always been a friend in the tougher times since most countries would not prefer playing a low-ranked team like Pakistan.”
Chaman-born striker further pointed out how the difference of 100 places speaks volumes about PFF’s incompetence.
“We play war-torn countries, a country like Palestine that is constantly in trouble politically and security situation, even they have found a way to rise above their circumstance, I don’t understand what Hayat has done for Pakistani players and football in his long tenure. He should give up and let someone else run it, “said Kaleemullah.
Hayat has been the PFF chief since 2003 and actively manipulated the 2015 PFF elections with hand-picked congress members despite having a court order not to hold the elections at all in far-fetched areas of Changla Gali.
While Fifa has continuously supported Hayat, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has finally ordered for fresh elections in the next 30 days.
However, Kaleemullah feels that things need to improve on the pitch and players need a visionary coach. He recalled his own time with the national side and supports the current team which has foreign-based and local players.
“The players give their all, they do,” said the former Sacramento Republic FC player. “Foreign-based or local, we give our best, but it is not our fault that the coaches don’t know how to use us.”
Meanwhile, the former Fc Dordoi striker said that he would have opted out of playing this friendly if he was asked by the PFF, but he is hopeful of a better future as the new PFF elections are ordered to take place.