Coach hopes Pak U16 team will defend title

Published in The News

KARACHI: Pakistan under-16 football coach Sajjad Mehmood said on Friday that he was confident that his team would defend the title of the SAFF Under-16 Championship to be held in Kathmandu from July 20 to 30

“We have raised a good team and we are ready for defending the title,” Sajjad told ‘The News’ in an interview from Lahore. Pakistan had lifted the crown of the first edition, also held in Kathmandu in August 2011 by beating India 2-1. The colts remained undefeated throughout that tournament and scored 11 goals, while conceding just one.

Sajjad, who was also the coach of that team that won the title two years back, said that that his team had 11 such players who had already played at international level.“You know, of the 24 probables we currently have in the camp, 11 are those who have already played at international level in Under-13 and Under-14 competitions,” said the coach.

Shoaib, Mohammad Junaid, Adnan Ashraf, Suleman Rahim, Faisal Hasan, Zain-ul-Aabdeen, Zohaib, Shehbaz, Rashid and Muneer Ahmed are among those players with international experience. The coach is expected to finalise the 20-member squad for the event by Monday next.

On July 18 the Greenshirts will fly out of Lahore to Kathmandu via Muscat. The managers meeting will be held on July 19 in which the draws will also be made. All the eight South Asian countries will be battling for supremacy in the 11-day affair.

Sajjad said that he was happy with the progress of his team. “We played two practice matches in which the defence played really well and the strikers were seen converting chances,” said Sajjad, an AFC License B coach.

“We have also a handful of good new comers like Zulfiqar, Rajab Ali and striker Mohsin,” Sajjad said. To a query he said that certainly there would be pressure on Pakistan. “Being defending champions the pressure will certainly be on us. But I don’t get disturbed by such things. I am working hard on the boys and am confident that we will repeat the performance we extended a couple of years ago,” Sajjad said.

Sajjad said that the players were fully motivated and wanted to do well in Nepal. “I have shown them the videos of our last title winning triumph in Nepal and the current lot is equally ecstatic and wants to live up to the expectations,” he said.

Hasan Baloch will be acting as assistant to Sajjad while Nouman Ibrahim will accompany the side as the goalkeeping coach. Dr Kamran Mehdi will be the physiotherapist.

After featuring in the 2nd Under-16 SAFF Cup, the same Pakistan team will feature in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-16 Championship Qualifiers Group E to be held here at the Peoples Sports Complex from September 25 to 29. United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sri Lanka and Iran are the other outfits in the group. Pakistan’s colts are currently undergoing training at the Punjab Stadium located close to the FIFA Football House where the players have been accommodated.