Lutfi positive ahead of Qualifiers

By Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: Pakistan football team head coach Tariq Lutfi has said that they have selected the best available players.

He is hopeful that a fighting lot would be prepared before the first round of the Olympic Qualifiers against Malaysia.

“We still have enough time before the Olympic Qualifiers against Malaysia and I am hopeful that a fine team would be prepared for the forthcoming assignment as we have picked the cream of the country among the probables,” Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’ in an interview on Sunday.

“The probables in the camp being in operation have been reduced to 30 and all the players are physically fit and are focused on their training,” Tariq said.

Apart from Spain-based goalkeeper Naiman Khan, Aamir Gul, Saqib Hanif, Mohammad Umar and Muzammil Hussain are the others who will fight for the goalkeeping slot.

Sweden-based Yousuf Butt is also in contact with the PFF and is expected to join the camp.

“I have not seen Yousuf Butt but I have heard that he is a good keeper. But I will select the best gloveman of the available lot,” the 59-year old coach said.

Pakistan are scheduled to hold a two-week training camp in Thailand in the second week of February before facing Malaysia on February 23 in their first leg of the Qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur.

In Thailand the team will play three matches against the local clubs while in the fourth and final match they will lock horns with the Thailand national team.

Before the second leg against Malaysia on March 9 in Pakistan, Palestine football team will tour Pakistan and will play two matches against the hosts in Lahore on March 2 and here in Karachi on March 4.

To a query, Tariq said that he is yet to know about the Malaysian team’s strength, saying, he is trying to learn more about them.

“I have asked a top official of the PFF to arrange a video of the Malaysian team so that I can plan accordingly. Malaysia have won the ASEAN Football Championship recently and are in a better shape. Besides, they have also qualified for the Olympics before,” he said.