Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: In a bid to prepare a fighting lot for the Asian Games, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) plans to hold a number of series with foreign nations, including India, in the next few months.
“We also plan to hold a series with India,” Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Thursday. “It would be seen where they would agree to play with us. We may also play against Bahrain and Thailand. If the government supports Pakistan Olympic Association’s (POA) chief Arif Hasan, a tour to Thailand can surely be finalised,” he said.
“Afghanistan are also interested to play with us. However, they have not yet sent their programme,” Lodhi said.
Pakistan football team on Thursday returned from Palestine where they featured in the Al-Nakba International Football tournament from May 10 to 19.
The Green-shirts ended third in the four-team slots in which they were without their head coach Mohammed Shamlan. He was not allowed by Israel to proceed with his team to Nablus from Jordon.
He then opted to stay in Jordon and gave instructions to his support staff on phone during Pakistan’s matches.
Israel also did not release permits to five players of Jordon, the whole Iraqi team and six players from Sri Lanka.
Pakistan whipped Sri Lanka 3-0 in their first outing before losing to a higher-ranked Jordon 0-1 in their second game.
In their do-or-die clash, Pakistan failed to live up to the expectations when they tasted a 0-3 drubbing at the hands of hosts Palestine and were sent packing.
The tour was part of the preparations for the Asian Games, pencilled in for September 19 to October 4 in the South Korean city of Incheon.
The players were released after their return to Lahore from Palestine.
Coach Shamlan also returned with the team. He is expected to hold a meeting with the top officials of PFF at the federation’s headquarters in Lahore on Friday (today).
“I am now going to Abbottabad to inspect the FIFA Goal Project and tomorrow I will meet Shamlan to disucss with him the future plan regarding the team’s preparations,” Lodhi said.
There are chances that the players will be re-assembled soon after Eid-ul-Fitr for their last phase of preparation ahead of the continental assignment, if any international commitment is not made in the meantime.
“I have got a message from Shamlan. He wants to resume camp a week before Eid-ul-Fitr. But I have told him that it should be resumed after Eid. I think that he will agree with me,” Lodhi said.
If the camp is resumed after Eid, Pakistan will still have around 45 days to prepare for the Asian Games.
“I think it would be enough time for the players to achieve their top fitness and form,” Lodhi said.
To handle the team in the Asian Games will be a real test for Shamlan, who replaced Serbian Zavisa Milosavljevic in September last year.
He handled the team in an invitational tournament in Philippines last year and against Lebanon in an international friendly which Pakistan lost 1-3 in Beirut early this year.
About the induction of foreign players in the team for the Asian Games, Lodhi said he was not sure if Shamlan would go for them because he wants them in the camp for at least 15 days ahead of any assignment.
Shamlan is expected to conduct an AFC Licence B course, which Pakistan is going to hold in Lahore next month.
“We are going to hold a Licence B course from early next month and we have written to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) that Shamlan should conduct the course as instructor. We are waiting for their response,” said Lodhi.
After the course, Shamlan will leave for Bahrain to spend Ramadan with his family, Lodhi added.