Pakistan to tour Nepal, Maldives

by Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Pakistan senior football team will embark on two back-to-back tours of Nepal and Maldives in the first week of next month to play four international friendlies in a bid to prepare for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup Qualifiers to be held in Kyrgyzstan in March.

Well-placed sources told ‘The News’ that the Greenshirts would fly out for Nepal from Lahore on February 4 to play a couple of matches against the technically strong side on February 6 and 9.

Then Zavisa Milosavljevic’s charges will tour Maldives to play a couple of matches on February 12 and 14. Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) did not confirm the tours but sources said that everything had been finalised and reservations had already been made.

“We are hopeful that a final decision will be made about the tours within a couple of days,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told this correspondent on Wednesday.

Both Nepal and Maldives have already confirmed the matches.

Lodhi said that 22 players and four officials would go if the tours were possible.

‘The News’ learnt that the players would report for the brief camp on January 27 and the following day the camp would formally begin at Lahore.

Sources said those players had been invited for the camp whose names had already been sent to the AFC for the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers.

But the PFF has not yet issued any letter to any department about the invitation of their players for the camp, a source said.

But it has been learnt that all the players have been invited to the camp through verbal messages.

Sources said the PFF had been facing a major problem about the induction of foreign-based players in the team. “The PFF seems to have certain problem as it has started taking input about foreign-based players from the home-based players,” said a source. “I had been contacted by the PFF and asked whether the foreign-based players should come directly for the international matches or they should join the camp for a few days in Pakistan,” one of the players called for the camp told this correspondent.

A couple of days ago, former Pakistan coach Akhtar Mohiuddin said in an interview with this correspondent that foreign-based players must join the camp well in advance ahead of any international assignment.

Around ten foreign-based players are on the radar of Zavisa Milosavljevic. Sources said England-born experienced central defender Zeeshan Rehman is not available for the tours and so is England-based midfielder Adnan Ahmed who is injured.

Apart from Danish goalie Yousuf Butt, Denmark-based strikers Hasan Bashir and Mohammad Ali and England-based left-back Shabbir Khan are likely to represent the country on the coming tours.