Chilly weather may hurt Pakistan in AFC qualifiers

By Alam Zeb Safe, The News

KARACHI: Pakistani footballers, particularly the home-grown lot, may face acclimatisation problem when they appear in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup Qualifiers to be held in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan from March 17 to 21.
The weather in Kyrgyzstan during the slots is expected to be chilly with the temperature varying from 10 degree Celsius to minus one or even lower.
When Pakistan team, scheduled to undergo training in Dubai next week, will land in Bishkek on March 15 or 16, the players will find themselves in a much-cooler environment with the minimum temperature expected to be minus one degree Celsius.
Experts say that the climatic conditions in Bishkek in those days would not affect the foreign-based players from England and Denmark as they are used to such a chilly weather, but it would definitely affect the home-grown players.
Currently, Pakistani boys are undergoing training in Lahore where the maximum temperature is around 25 degree Celsius. The players will find themselves in almost the same temperature but with more humidity when they land in Dubai in the next few days.
“Chilly weather will definitely affect home-grown players,” Pakistan’s former skipper Mohammad Essa told ‘The News’ on Saturday.
“We have been through such situations. I remember when we went to England in 2001 the weather was chilly and it was always difficult to play or do some warm-up,” Essa recalled.
“Before our match against Bury FC, we were unable to warm up. The Indian captain Baichung Bhutia gave us some lotion to apply on our bodies, which produced sweating and only then were we able to do some warm-up and play,” the country’s finest playmaker said.
“I hope the boys will not feel difficulty if the temperature remains around 10 degree Celsius but if it drops further or there is snowfall it could create problems for Pakistani players,” Essa added.
Another expert told this correspondent that the chilly weather and snowfall eats up the grass and the pitches are left bald, which could pose problems for Zavisa’s charges. “The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) must find out on what type of pitch the national team will be playing in Kyrgyzstan. If the pitches are bald and there is rainy season and snowfall, then definitely Pakistani players will need the same type of shoes which the players of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan use,” the expert pointed out.
He also warned that the qualifiers would be a real challenge for Pakistani goalkeepers.
“Players of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are long shooters and the Pakistani keepers will have to be very cautious while playing against them,” the expert said.
Pakistan football team coach Zavisa Milosavljevic said that acclimatisation was a challenge, but his players would be able to overcome it. “Although it takes time to acclimatise with the local conditions but I am hopeful we will adapt to it soon and it would not be a problem for us,” Zavisa said.
In the qualifiers Pakistan will face Tajikistan in their opener on March 17, followed by their game against Kyrgyzstan on March 19 and Macau on March 21.
Twenty teams have been bracketed in five pools of four teams each. The five group winners and two best second-placed sides will join hosts Maldives in the final round to be held in Male next year