PFF ropes in foreign resources ahead of India series

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has called up all the available foreign-based footballers for the preparatory camp of the national team for its three-match series against old rivals India which will start in England in the last week of August.

England-based Zeeshan Rehman, Atif Bashir Qureshi, Adnan Farooq Ahmed, Irfan Khan, Reis Ashraf, Shabbir Khan, Hasan Bashir and Denmark-based goalkeeper Yousuf Butt, striker Mohammad Ali and defender Nabil Aslam are the players who have been asked to join the camp along with the home-grown boys. The camp will start from August 12 most probably at the Model Town Football Academy Ground in Lahore instead of the Punjab Stadium as training would be held under lights due to Ramadan.

Of the foreign-based players, defender Nabil Aslam’s inclusion would be a big boost for the national team which failed to click in few crucial international assignments held this year. Nabil, who plays for AC Horsens in the Danish Superliga, was also invited for the World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh but he could not join the team because of his incomplete travel documents.

Denmark-based goalie Yousuf Butt, who was released after he failed to impress the management during the Olympic qualifiers against Malaysia, has again been invited.

The coach was happy with Yousuf’s technique but it was his lack of commitment which had forced the management to decide against him at that time. Yousuf was at that time playing for Birkerod IF Skjold in the Danish league. But sources close to him had told this correspondent after the Olympic qualifiers against Malaysia that due to his long engagement with the Pakistan team on its tour of Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in connection with the Olympic qualifiers his Danish club had fired him.

Pakistan are scheduled to leave for England on August 25. Both the archrivals will face each other in their opener on August 28 at the Barry Town FC Ground in Manchester, followed by the encounters at the Coventry FC Ground on September 3 and Western United FC Ground in London on September 11.

During the 18-day tour, Pakistan also may play one or two practice games against the local clubs as there is a big gap between the second and third match.

“Because there is a big gap between the last two matches Pakistan could get one or two practice games against some local clubs”, PFF’s Director Marketing and Event Management Sardar Naved Haider told The News.

On the local front, coach Tariq Lutfi has decided to only retain two senior players including goalkeeper Jaffar Khan and defender Samar Ishaq from the squad of the World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh while the rest of the boys in the 30-man probables list for the England tour are those who have also represented Pakistan in both the Olympic qualifiers and World Cup qualifiers.

“Yes, Jaffar and Samar are the only senior players who have been retained in the squad”, coach Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’ here on Wednesday.

Apart from Jaffar Khan and Denmark-based Yousuf Butt, Jehangir Khan and Mohammad Omar are the other goalkeepers in the list.

Nasir Ismail, Gohar Zaman and goalkeeping coach Aslam Khan will act as support staff to Lutfi during the camp and on the tour.

Last time, Pakistan had visited England in March 2001 when they were preparing for the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. On the tour Pakistan had lost to the then English second division side Bury FC 0-3, before falling against Coventry City 0-2 and an amateur level London ABSA team.

Of the 30 probables, 22 players will be picked for the series against India. Last time, Pakistan had beaten India in the three-match series held in Pakistan in 2005 on a better goal-average after both the teams won one match each before the third outing ended in a draw in Quetta.