THERE is one thing on Atif Bashir’s mind as he prepares for Pakistan’s challenge in the South Asian Football Federation Cup in India next month.


The hulking defender wants to avenge Pakistan’s early exit from the 2014 World Cup qualifiers at the hands of Bangladesh back in July. Pakistan lost the first leg 3-0 in lashing rain in what can only be described as a mud bath in Dhaka at the backend of June. The return leg in Lahore ended goalless and sealed the Greenshirts fate in the qualifiers.


But Pakistan will have an opportunity to get one over their south Asian rivals when the two meet in the opening game at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on December 2.


As he prepared with the rest of the Pakistan squad for the SAFF Championship in India, Bashir said this was a great opportunity to get one over Bangladesh and get their campaign off to the right start.


“For me, it’s personal. It’s our first and upmost most important game of this tournament, and it’s Bangladesh which makes it even more exciting. Let’s hope it doesn’t backfire on us,” Bashir in an exclusive interview.


Reflecting back on the defeat to Bangladesh in the summer, Bashir said: “I do believe we had a chance to progress (in the world cup qualifiers). Bangladesh is always an opponent that plays “no nonsense” football. But the world cup qualifiers were an unfortunate event. Yes, the game (in Dhaka) should never have been played but in retrospect, we had a chance to prove (in the second leg) that on a decent pitch in Lahore, we are the better footballing side. But the fact is we didn’t at the time.”


Bashir made his international debut in the 2008 SAFF Championship in the Maldives and has been an ever-present member of the national team. Fans have been impressed with the 26-year-old’s dominating style of play and full commitment to the cause despite results in games and competitions not being so great.


The Barry Town defender has promised fans to again give it his all as Pakistan look to get out of their group which alongside Bangladesh includes the Maldives and Nepal.


“I definitely believe I have progressed as a person since playing for Pakistan. I count myself as a vital player for Pakistan and believe I have the right qualities to bring to the squad. I’m always willing to give 100 percent in every game I play and hopefully that can lead to positive results (in the SAFF Championship).”


He added: “I enjoy the walk on to the pitch and hearing the national anthem. It gets my heart racing. I’m proud to be representing the Greenshirts.”