Pakistan could play Lesotho for SAFF Cup preps

KARACHI: Pakistan football team will play a handful of matches against Lesotho and some other countries in a bid to prepare for the SAFF Cup, ‘The News’ learnt through reliable sources on Thursday.

Lesotho, an African country, currently playing the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in Group D, will host Pakistan for a couple of matches to be held on August 13 and 16 this year.

Sources said that Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic, who has also spent time in Lesotho, had finalised the encounters.

For the purpose Pakistan will hold a camp on August 1.

SAFF Cup will be hosted by Nepal from September 1-11 in which eight member nations of SAARC will show their worth. India will defend the title.

Sources said that the PFF also plans to hold training camp on June 20 for the tours of Singapore and Bahrain in July. A source even claimed that Pakistan would play a game against Singapore in Singapore on July 4 and face Bahrain in Bahrain on July 7. But Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) did not confirm the tours, saying efforts were being made to manage a few games for the team ahead of the SAFF Cup.

“We have requested Singapore, Afghanistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bahrain to invite us for friendlies so that we could make preparations for the SAFF Cup,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told this correspondent on Thursday.

“Nothing has been confirmed so far and once such a tour is confirmed we will announce the camp,” said Lodhi.

“Currently we have no such plan for holding any camp,” said Lodhi, who recently attended the FIFA Congress in Mauritius and held talks with these countries for hosting Pakistan ahead of the SAFF Cup, which Pakistan have never won.

Apart from these tours, Pakistan will face the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Dubai in a FIFA friendly on September 21. For this game the camp will be held from September 12.

But Lodhi once again did not confirm it. “Although the subject has been discussed by both the nations, so far no country has given its final confirmation about the friendly,” he said.

‘The News’ has also learnt that for the SAFF Cup, the PFF will try to hold a final camp on August 18.

For the last one and a half years the PFF has given a lot of international exposure to its footballers to help them develop international match temperament.

Milosavljevic, who is expected to quit as Pakistan coach after completing his two-year contract in November, is busy these days in his paperwork related to the preparation for the SAFF Cup.

Milosavljevic, who has been working as Pakistan’s coach since November 5, 2011, when he replaced Tariq Lutfi, closely watched the National Challenge Cup in Bahawalpur last month and shortlisted players for the SAFF Cup preparation.

A few discarded internationals might be called for the SAFF Cup camp. National Bank’s skipper and international midfielder Abdul Aziz may be one of those players. He looked fit and led his side to title victory in the National Challenge Cup.

by Alam Zeb Safi [the News]