Pakistan football team fly for SAFF Cup today [The News]

Sports Correspondent- The News

KARACHI: Pakistan football team will fly out of Lahore for Kathmandu on Friday (today) to take part in the SAFF Cup, which will be held at Nepal’s capital from September 1-11.

After the removal of the Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic and goalkeeping coach Aslam Khan, Shehzad Anwar will act as head coach, while the newly-appointed Pakistan coach Mohammed Shamlan of Bahrain will act as advisor.

The team comprises those 17 home-based players that played in Kabul against Afghanistan and will be joined by Denmark-based striker Hasan Bashir, goalie Yousuf Butt, defender Yaqoob Butt and England-based midfielder Adnan Ahmed, who will also be acting as deputy to skipper Samar Ishaq.

PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi said that former Fulham defender Zeeshan Rehman was also expected to join the team. “Zesh has told us that he would be available after August 31. He is a good player and we hope that his inclusion will be an advantage to the team,” said Lodhi.

Pakistan, who have never won the SAFF Cup, have been clubbed in Group A with six-time champions India, Nepal and former champions Bangladesh. The Green-shirts will start their campaign with the match against India on September 1 and play against Nepal on September 3 and Bangladesh on September 5.

The last edition’s runners-up Afghanistan have been placed in Group B with former champions Maldives and Sri Lanka and the world’s lowest-ranked outfit Bhutan.

Two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals, which will be held on September 8 and 9. The final will be played on September 11.

Head coach Shehzad Anwar said that he would try his best to keep the players motivated. “The situation is before you. The players’ morale was a bit down after the loss against Afghanistan, but I held a meeting with them today and everyone was ready to compete,” Shehzad told this correspondent.

He said that the best lot had been picked and he believed that the result in Nepal would not be bad.

About Zeeshan, who plays professional football in Hong Kong, Shehzad said that the defender was expected to join the team before the second match as his team is scheduled to play a game on August 31.

To a query Shehzad said that he would be comfortable in the company of Bahraini coach Mohammed Shamlan.

“I have already worked with Shamlan. His association will help me a lot,” said Shehzad, an AFC License A coach.

This will be the first major assignment for Shehzad as head coach of Pakistan. In 2008 he acted as head coach of the Pakistan team that lost to Malaysia 4-1 in Kuala Lumpur.

Pakistan squad: Saqib Hanif, Muzammil Hussain, Mohammad Hameed, Samar Ishaq, Kamran Khan, Muhammad Ahmed, Ahsanullah, Saddam Hussain, Muhammad Adil, Faisal Iqbal, Yasir Afridi, Zia Us Salam, Naveed Ahmed, Mohammad Riaz, Kaleemullah, Muhammad Mujahid, Saeed Ahmed, Yousuf Butt, Yaqoob Butt, Hasan Basher, Adnan Ahmed (vice-captain), Zeeshan Rehman.

Officials: Shahzad Anwar (coach cum manager), Mohammed Shamlan (advisor), Kamran Mehdi (physiotherapist/ assistant manager)