Essa return takes another turn!

By Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: The issue of the return of former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa into the national football team was mishandled again, ‘The News’ has learnt through well-placed sources.

“While calling the senior players for their passports and other necessary documents in connection with the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, a clerk of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) rang Mohammad Essa the other day, asking for his passport and photographs to be dispatched to which the former captain denied,” a source said.

“With Essa already disgruntled with the attitude of the PFF, it was the responsibility of the top brass of the federation, particularly the head coach, to call him and seek for his return for the most important event. The way he has been approached is surprising,” the source said.

Essa announced retirement from international football during the SAFF Championship in Bangladesh in December 2009 along with goalkeeper Jaffar Khan after his relationship with the then coach George Kottan had soured. But after his retirement Essa was not even contacted by the PFF till one of the top officials of the federation had called him for the Asian Games which the captain had declined at that time.

“Essa, who was in good form during the Premier League while leading KESC, is still interested in representing Pakistan provided he is treated by the PFF in positive manner,” a source said.

When ‘The News’ contacted a top official of the PFF, he said that Essa was contacted but he denied sending his passport to the federation.

“I shall try to contact him when the camp will start for the AFC Challenge Cup,” the official said.

Pakistan are to appear in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers starting from March 20 in a yet to be decided venue. Pakistan have been placed in Group B with archrivals India, Turkmenistan and the winners of the playoff between Laos and Chinese Taipei. North Korea are placed in Group D with Nepal, Sri Lanka and the winners of Bhutan/Afghanistan playoff while Group A contains Bangladesh, Palestine, Myanmar and the winners of playoff between Philippines and Mongolia. Group C carries Tajikistan, Maldives, Kyrgyzstan and the winners of playoff between Cambodia and Macau.