Foreign-based players to attend training camp, says Lodhi

By Umaid Wasim: Dawn

Pakistan team that lost 4-0 to Singapore (by Alfie Lee - FAS)KARACHI: In a titanic change of trend, six foreign-based players will be attending Pakistan football team’s training camp which gets underway at the PFF House in Lahore from Monday.

Foreign-based players have shown reluctance over recent years to attend the training camps in the country instead flying to match venues directly but this time around Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic seems to have convinced the players to attend the camp for the national team’s friendly matches against Nepal and Maldives next month.

“The foreign players will arrive on Tuesday,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn. “Milosavljevic seems to have convinced the players to come to the training camp.”

Eight players from Pakistan Premier Football League champions (PPFL) Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) have also been named in the 22-member list of probables for the camp which will conclude on Feb 15.

The two friendlies against fellow South Asian countries will help Pakistan in developing a strong squad for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers which will be held in Kyrgyzstan in March.

KRL hotshot Kaleemullah, the top-scorer in the PPFL season with 32 goals, would hope he can prove Milosavljevic, who has preferred to use him in a midfield role, that he can lead the line.

Other PPFL top-performers have also been called up namely Muslim FC’s Saeed Ahmed, who was given the best player award, Karachi
Electric Supply Company (KESC) hitman Mohammad Rasool and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) forward Mohammad Mujahid.

Amongst the six foreign-based players, four are from Denmark.

Goalkeeper Yousuf Butt and his brother Yaqoob, who plays as a defender, have been called up along with strikers Mohammad Ali and Hassan Bashir, who has struggled to perform with Pakistan and isn’t in the best of form with his club side Nordvest.

Embroiled in a transfer scandal earlier this month after he left Hellerup IK and began training with Søllerød-Vedbaek, Hassan eventually joined Nordvest in a year which has seen him play for three different clubs along with Thailand’s Big Bang Chula United.

“Nordvest FC welcome the agreement reached with a talented footballer who has speed, is industrious, and to provide some specious dribbling on the pitch — a valuable player for the offensive,” the club wrote on their website after signing Hassan last week.

How he uses those abilities for the national team, though, remains to be seen. But the big talking point is the selection of England-based Amjad Iqbal.

Amjad, who plays for Bradford Park Avenue in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, refused to come to Pakistan due to security issues for the Challenge Cup qualifiers in 2009.

And while Milosavljevic did not comment on his inclusion, the man he took over as coach of the country doesn’t think so highly of calling up foreign players.

“Foreign players do not show the same level of commitment which is shown by local players,” Tariq Lutfi told Dawn. “They don’t have the passion for the national team. They come straight into the starting eleven and it doesn’t really help the morale of the local-based players.”

Along with Amjad, the other England-based player is left-back Shabir Khan who plays for Halesowen Town in Blue Square Bet North on loan from Worcester City.

Shabir, who has spent the last two seasons out with a serious knee injury, is finally finding his form and appeared for Pakistan against Singapore in November and has also been involved in Halesowen’s last two games against Romulus and Sheffield in the lower English league.

Probables: Jaffar Khan (Army), Saqib Hanif, Rizwan Asif, Samar Ishaq, Kamran Khan, Muhammad Adil, Kaleem Ullah, Zia-us-Salam, Yaseer Afridi (all KRL), Mohammad Ahmed (WAPDA), Mohammad Rasool (KESC), Faisal Iqbal (NBP), Mohammad Mujahid (PAF), Naveed Ahmed (Navy), Mohammad Hameed, Saeed Ahmed (Muslim FC), Yousuf Butt (BGA FC/DEN) Yaqoob Butt (Skovshoved IF/DEN), Mohammad Ali (BK Avarta/DEN), Hassan Bashir (Nordvest/DEN); Amjad Iqbal (Bradford Park Avenue FC/ENG) and Shabir Khan (Halesowen Town FC/ENG). Officials: Zavisa Milosavljevic (Head coach/Manager), Shahzad Anwar (Assistant coach), Aslam Khan (Goalkeeper coach), Kamran Mehdi (Physio) and Bilal Butt (Coordinator).