Naveed, Mehmood return from successful Nepalese stint

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Pakistan footballers Naveed Akram and Mehmood Ali have returned home after a successful stint with a Nepali club Saraswoti Youth Club (SYC) during the Nepal Martyr’s Memorial A Division League 2011 which concluded in Kathmandu recently.

Defender Naveed and midfielder Mehmood were hired by the SYC, which had their first appearance in the Nepal’s top league and successfully averted relegation, and finished 13th out of 18 outfits which fought each other on single league system.

Both players, who are currently playing for WAPDA during the Pakistan Premier Football League, represented the debutants SYC for two months (May 17-July 17) in the three-month-long league which was played at two venues in the Nepal capital.

Mehmood Ali was part of the Pakistan team during all the international assignments which the country undertook under Austrian coach George Kottan from February 2009 to February 2010 while Naved Akram was the member of the national team which won gold medals in the 2004 Islamabad and 2006 Colombo South Asian Games. Both the players earned Rs200,000 each during their two-month association with the Nepali club.

“It was a good experience for me,” Naved Akram told ‘The News’ here in an interview.

“Our club was appearing in the top league for the first time and has been able to avert relegation. We put in our best and the club is very happy with us,” Naveed said.

The club is more likely to hire the services of few more Pakistani players for the next season.

“I have been told that next time I will have to bring in three or four more players,” the 27-year old Multan born Naveed said.

“There were around 55 to 60 foreign players, most of them African, playing in the Nepal’s A Division league. There were players of Uganda, Tanzania and other African states and their presence had instilled a life in the league which we don’t see here in Pakistan,” Naveed said.

He said that Nepal Football Association (NFA) have earned great money through gate-fee because of the enthusiastic crowd watching the league encounters.

Meanwhile, Quetta-born Mehmood Ali was also satisfied with his stint for the club and was hopeful that he would serve the club next season as well.

“It was a fine experience and I will also play in the next season,” Mehmood Ali said.

He said that the inclusion of foreign players had made the league very captivating. “There were around 60 foreign players playing in that league. Though it was short as compared to the league here in Pakistan but was competitive because of the presence of foreign recruits,” he said.

“The pitches we were playing on were full of heavy grass and were demanding more stamina from the players,” Mehmood said.

“Overall, it was a great exercise. The club was meeting all our demands and we greatly enjoyed our stay in Kathmandu,” the midfielder said.

The duo said that Pakistan also should follow Nepal by bringing in foreign players to its league in order to make it attractive for the crowd and for the sponsors as well. In Nepal, every club could hire the services of five foreign players for the league as per rules.