National football team leaves for Kabul today [Tribune]

Natasha Raheel – Express Tribune

KARACHI: KRL defender Samar Ishaq will lead the Pakistan side in a friendly match against Afghanistan tomorrow.

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) announced the squad for Afghanistan tour yesterday, while the team is all set to fly to Kabul today in the afternoon.

The biggest change in the line-up was Ishaq replacing Jaffar Khan as the captain, while Saqib Hanif will be playing as the goal-keeper for the team on the tour.

The friendly match tomorrow was arranged by the PFF to provide practice and exposure to the national side before the South Asian Football Federation (Saff) Championship that will start in Nepal on September 1.

Afghanistan were the runners-up to India in the last edition of the championship in 2011, while Pakistan have never won the Saff trophy.

Earlier, the PFF also scheduled a Bangladesh tour of two matches, which was cancelled, however the team continued to train in Lahore.

We will miss Jaffar: Kaleemullah

Kaleemullah, who will be one of the key players on the Afghanistan tour, said that the team will miss its seasoned goal-keeper Jaffar.

“We have young players, but having an experienced goal-keeper makes things easier for the rest of the team,” Kaleemullah told The Express Tribune. “Jaffar is like a pillar for our defence but unfortunately his knee injury will keep him on the sidelines for a while.

“We practiced in the rain in Lahore, so the weather in Kabul will not trouble us at all. We’ve heard that it’s raining in Kabul as well. Afghanistan have players coming from the US and India so it’s going to be a tough match.”

Kaleemullah also said that the players’ final selection for the Saff Championship will depend on their performances on the Afghanistan tour. He said that at least two more players can be dropped from the current squad to make place for foreign-based players.

PFF Secretary Lodhi satisfied with preparations

Meanwhile, the PFF Secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi said that he expects good results from the team against Afghanistan.

“I’m satisfied with our preparations,” said Lodhi. “I expect a good fight since Afghanistan is a better team.”

Assistant coach Anwar Shahzad said that the match is more about preparing for the Saff Championship.

“Afghanistan is not fielding their full team,” said Shahzad. “Six of our foreign-based players will join us in Nepal. This match is more about preparation without giving away our strategy to our opponents.”

Pakistan is placed in Group A with India, Bangladesh and Nepal, while Afghanistan will play in Group B alongside Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan at the Saff Championship.

The squad for Afghanistan also includes Muzammil Hussain, Muhammad Hameed, Kamran Khan, Muhammad Ahmed, Ahsanullah, Saddam Hussain, Muhammad Adil, Faisal Iqbal,Yasir Afridi, Ziaus Salam, Naveed Ahmed, Mohammad Riaz,  Muhammad Mujahid  and Saeed Ahmed.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2013.