Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Pakistan football captain Kaleemullah has said that he is extremely happy that his team has started scoring goals hoping that similar killer instinct will help its Asian Games in South Korea next month.
“It is after a long time that we are scoring goals in international matches which is a healthy sign and will also help us in the Asian Games,” Kaleem told ‘The News’ in an interview.
“We are scoring goals in almost every match and the team is on the path of development. Pakistan showed immense aggression on the tours of India and Bahrain. Coach Mohammed Shamlan is working hard on the boys and I see a bright future for the team,” said Kaleem, who will turn 23 on September 20.
In the Asian Games, Pakistan have been clubbed in Group F with strong China and North Korea who have World Cup experience.
Pakistan will face North Korea at Hwaseong Stadium in Incheon in their first game on September 18 before taking on China at the same venue on September 22. Two teams from the three-team pool will progress to the round of 16.
Kaleem admitted that the Asian Games was a tough assignment but was determined that Pakistan would put in their level best to spring surprise.
“No doubt, it’s a major event featuring strong nations but our team has gained confidence and I hope we will deliver,” the former KRL striker said.
Kaleem said that their main focus in the Asiad would be on the first game.
“The opening match in Korea will be of great importance. If we click in it, we will be in a better position to reach the knock-out stage,” said Kaleem, who has signed a two-year contract worth Rs10 million with Dordoi.
In the 2006 Doha Asian Games, Pakistan had lost to North Korea 1-0 after the referee had given a goal despite a clear foul.
The Chaman-born Kaleem led Pakistan to a 2-0 victory against India in Bangalore on August 20 to seal the two-match series on goal-average after the hosts had won the first show 1-0 at the same venue on August 17.
Then on the tour of Bahrain, which have a solid football structure, Pakistan held Bahrain’s Premier League winners Al-Riffa SC to a 1-1 draw on August 25 before holding their King’s Cup winners East Riffa 2-2 in their second match on August 27 in Manama.
The Green-shirts were scheduled to face Al-Hidd in their last clash on Saturday night.
After playing the opening two matches Kaleem had to return home the other day because he was scheduled to leave for Kyrgyzstan on Saturday to join his club Dordoi Bishkek which are to play a few friendly games before their last round of the Premier League which will start after the Asian Games.
Winger Mohammad Aadil and midfielder Saddam Hussain had also left Bahrain for Bishkek on August 28. Karachi-born Saddam is the latest signing of Dordoi being managed by former Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic.
“We struggled a bit in the midfield but the coach is totally focused on it and hopefully the vital area will be in much better shape in the Asian Games,” he said.
Keeper Muzammil Hussain did a great job in India but Kaleem said that the gloveman would have to focus on his job.
“Muzammil is highly talented but he needs to work hard and focus on his job. A performance in one or two matches does not make a player hero unless he shows consistency,” the captain pointed out.
“Faisal Iqbal and Bilawal are nursing injuries while Adil is also not hundred per cent fit. As the Asian Games are still two-week away and I hope the trio will achieve their top fitness. Adil played in Bahrain and his complete recovery will boost the morale of the team in Korea,” Kaleem revealed.
Kaleem, Adil and Saddam will return from Kyrgyzstan on September 8 to join Pakistan team which is expected to fly out for South Korea on Sep. 11.