PFF eyes FIFA Congress for SAFF Cup preps

KARACHI, May 23: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is eyeing the upcoming FIFA Congress to boost the national team’s preparations for the SAFF Cup.

With South Asia’s top football event scheduled for September, Pakistan’s preparations suffered a blow when a proposed tri-series involving fellow regional rivals India and Bangladesh in London was scrapped earlier this month after the organisers faced a pullout from the main sponsors.

For Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic, who was expected to announce a training camp for that tour at the end of the ongoing National Challenge Cup, it was a setback.

“In order to create a strong team which is able to win major tournaments, we need a large number of international matches which will help boost their confidence and give them more exposure,” Milosavljevic said recently.

But the PFF is hoping to soften that blow by arranging a series of friendly matches for the national team.

And for that, they are looking to talk to members of several federations who will be attending the FIFA Congress in Mauritius.

“We’ll be looking to hold talks with other federations at the annual congress in order to arrange some practice matches for the national team ahead of the SAFF Cup,” PFF secretary Col. Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn on Thursday.

With football development in emerging countries set to be the main agenda at the 63rd annual congress of world football’s governing body, Pakistan might be able to benefit.

“We have been traveling to other countries for friendly matches but this time around, we’ll be looking to make out case to hold some international matches in Pakistan,” Lodhi informed.

“The PFF is trying to invite two or three teams to Pakistan in August irrespective of their continental affiliations. They might be African nations or from Asia or Europe.

“We’ll also be holding talks with Afghanistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka about coming over to Pakistan to play some international matches.”

SAFF champions India, meanwhile, are aiming to schedule a couple of friendlies in June to prepare for their title defence while Bangladesh are looking at bringing forward their domestic Super Cup to keep their players fine-tuned for the event.

And although a number of Pakistan internationals, barring their foreign-based contingent, have been in action in the Challenge Cup the complaints over inadequate venues and the lighting system in place in Bahawalpur seems like less ideal preparations for the SAFF Cup.

Lodhi, however, believes that the lack of infrastructure in Bahawalpur will not have an adverse affect the national team players.

“We already have a select group of players and they are performing well and of course we’ll be holding a training camp prior to the SAFF Cup so our players will be in top condition for the event,” he concluded.

by Umaid Wasim [Dawn]