by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Pakistan football team on Thursday received a major boost when Denmark-based winger Shabban Hussein joined the squad at Bahrain ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers first round against Cambodia.
“Shabban reached here today,” a Pakistan team official told ‘The News’ from Manama on Thursday. “Our players are coming and we will soon get our full squad,” he said. Shabban, who is said to have great talent, is expected to make his international debut for the country which has been passing through internal football turmoil. Two bodies have held camps for the World Cup qualifiers.
The camp in Bahrain is being supervised by the FIFA-recognised Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), while the camp at the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad is being handled by Ashfaq Hussain Shah-led PFF which is not recognized by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Only the team of the Bahrain camp can represent Pakistan in the qualifiers. Pakistan will face Cambodia on June 6 and 11 in the two-legged round, the winners of which will move into the second round to be held later this summer.
Shabban belongs to Vanlose IF, a Denmark second division club. Danish second division is the third-tier football league after the top-tier Superliga and first division, which is called second-tier. “I am ready and very much excited to represent Pakistan,” Shabban said. The youngster has played 11 matches in the second division, scoring four goals.
“I am in good form and am hopeful that Pakistan will make it to the second round of the qualifiers after winning both the legs against Cambodia,” Shabban said.
Shabban, who belongs to Gujrat, is a new addition to Pakistan’s squad which has also been joined the other day by England-born brothers Samir Nabi and Rahis Nabi, the younger brothers of professional player Adil Nabi. Adil, according to sources, is also expected to represent Pakistan if the nation qualify for the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers.
With Denmark-based Hasan Bashir, Mohammad Ali, Yousuf Butt, Yaqoob Butt and Adnan Mohammad having joined the team already in Manama, England-born former Pakistan captain Zeeshan Rehman is expected to join the team on May 26.
“He (Zeeshan) will join us most probably on May 26 as he is going to play in the Hong Kong FA Cup final on May 25,” a Pakistan team official said. Zesh’s team Southern will take on Kitchee in the Hong Kong FA Cup final on May 25 at the Kong Stadium, Hong Kong.
Zesh has been in terrific form and the former Fulham defender is expected to play a key role in Pakistan’s cause in the Qualifiers. Pakistan faces a big issue because of the internal problem as a handful of key players have been engaged in the Islamabad camp. It means this will leave Pakistan to mostly depend on foreign-based stuff in the qualifiers.
Saddam Hussain, Mansoor Khan and goalkeeper Saqib Hanif are some of the major players who are unable to make it to Pakistan’s team for the qualifiers because of their presence in Islamabad camp.
FIFA is scheduled to send a joint FIFA-AFC mission to Lahore next week to make an effort for resolving the long-standing dispute which has inflicted an unprecedented damage on the country’s football during the last four years. Because of the issue Pakistan also missed 2020 Olympics Qualifiers in Uzbekistan last March.
Bahrain’s camp is being supervised by Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira. Pakistan team will also face Bahrain’s Under-23 team in a friendly on May 28. “Practice matches are important and we will play against Bahrain Under-23 on May 28 to test the bunch. We are training hard and hopefully a better combination will be formed,” the official said.