Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Islamabad
The Pakistan senior team will be travelling to Beirut for a friendly fixture in February after being invited by the Lebanese Football Association.
The Pak Shaheens haven’t taken part in friendlies since last October, however that could change with a trip to Beirut next month.
“As far as I know, so far one match has been confirmed, while the PFF is trying to get one or two more matches on the tour,” a PFF source said while taking to The News.
Things are not confirmed yet, but PFF Secretary Col. Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi claims that the Federation are looking to secure vital games in order to provide International exposure to the National side.
“We are trying our best to make such arrangements for the team. We have verbally communicated with the Lebanon but so far have not received anything from them in black and white,” Lodhi said to The News.
According to reports, Pakistan will play the game on the 19th of February and the training camp should start after the conclusion of the Pakistan Premier League in early February.
While all local-based players will be available for selection, coach Mohammad Al-Shamlan will not be able to call up Zesh Rehman (Pahang FA) as the game is not on FIFA dates. Nonetheless, Yousuf Butt (BGA), Mohammad Ali (Svebolle), Hassan Bashir (Fremad Amagar), Adnan Ahmed (Nelson FC) and Shabir Khan (Worcester City FC) could be called up provided they are fit and ready to go.
Pakistan could also see the debut of Nabil Aslam (AC Horsens), who has experience in the Danish Super Liga and in the UEFA Europa League as well.
And also like Pakistan, Lebanon uses several foreign-based players for their National Team and because of them enjoyed a superb run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, reaching the last stage of qualification for the first time in their history.
In the past, Pakistan and Lebanon have only clashed once during the 2002 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, where the Cedars came out on top in a 6-0 win. However, current coach Shamlan is in favour of tough games and reckons that the friendly will provide exposure to his young players, which will help in long-term improvement.
“The PFF has strong relations with the Lebanon football authorities and I hope the tour will help our team gain some match practice. And if held, the international tournament in Pakistan will be an added advantage for us ahead of the assignments,” the Bahraini trainer was quoted as saying while speaking to The News.