Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: After deciding against touring Lesotho due to unavailability of transportation link from South Africa, Pakistan football team will now play friendly matches against Bangladesh and Afghanistan to prepare for the SAFF Cup to be hosted by Nepal in Kathmandu from September 1-11.
“We decided against sending team to Lesotho because there was no flight from South Africa to Lesotho. There are small flights and in those it is difficult to get more than four or five seats at a time which is why we have decided against the tour,” Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Friday.
Pakistan had initially planned to play a couple of matches against Lesotho on August 13 and 16.
Lodhi did not unveil the actual dates of the tours to Bangladesh and Afghanistan but according to Bangladesh media Pakistan will arrive in Dhaka on August 11 and will play two friendly games against Bangladesh on August 13 and 16. Bangladesh, also former champions, have already announced their 26-member squad for the SAFF Cup.
The schedule shows that the Green-shirts are likely to fly out of Lahore for Dhaka on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr.
After the Dhaka trip, Pakistan will proceed to Kabul to play a friendly match against Afghanistan on August 20. There is also the possibility that Pakistan may proceed to Afghanistan directly from Bangladesh.
The Pak-Afghan showdown has been planned to be staged at the Afghanistan Football Federation Stadium in Kabul which has a capacity of only 7000.
As the clash will be telecast live by an international channel operating in Afghanistan and due to immense following of the game in that country die-hard fans could be deprived of a chance to see the neighbouring countries in action due to low capacity of the stadium.
Meanwhile, there is no happy news for Pakistan team, as half a dozen foreign-based players of Afghanistan will not be seen in action in the tie which is to serve as a practice game SAFF Cup.
“We will not be able to have the assistance of our foreign-based players in our match against Pakistan,” Afghanistan coach Yousuf Kargar told this correspondent from Kabul on Friday.
“We have two players in the United States and around six in other countries of Europe and we will have them in the team only for the SAFF Cup,” said Yousuf.
He disclosed that Afghanistan is planning to visit Jordon and United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a few games after hosting Pakistan.
“It’s very important to play international matches against any major event like the SAFF Cup,” he said.
The SAFF Cup draws will be held in Nepal on July 30. For the coming tours of Dhaka and Kabul Pakistan team will start its preparation from August 1 in Lahore.
Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic will return from Serbia on July 29 and will supervise the training camp. Sources close to Zavisa said that the Serbian was also in contact with foreign-based Pakistani players for the forthcoming tours. Sources said that it was expected that defender Nabil Aslam, who plays for AC Horsens in the Danish Superliga, would also be a part of the Pakistani team. Nabil, who will be renewing his Pakistani passport in the next few days after coming here, is yet to make his debut for his country of origin. Other Danish players Yousuf Butt, Hasan Bashir, Mohammad Ali and Yaqoob Butt have already represented Pakistan.