National football team returns in high spirits [Express Tribune]

National football team returns in high spirits [Express Tribune]

Sports Correspondent – The News
KARACHI: Pakistan’s national football team returned to Lahore late Sunday after a successful tour of India and Bahrain last month.

Pakistan’s key player Saddam Hussain, who was instrumental in the team’s performance against India in a two-match series at the Bangalore Stadium, said that the tour was not only helpful for preparations of the upcoming Asian Games, but it had also instilled confidence in the players.

“We’ve returned with a great sense of pride,” Saddam told The Express Tribune. “The feeling of beating India in a series at their home ground was priceless.”

Saddam, along with captain and striker Kaleemullah, ensured victory for Pakistan on a better goal-average in two matches.

Pakistan had lost their first match to India 1-0 on August 17, but they won their last encounter 2-0 to make an impact against their archrivals.

“We’re learning and improving,” said Saddam. “We also played and levelled a match against Bahrain’s top club Riffa FC. That alone was very encouraging for us.”

He added that despite minor injuries, the team’s spirits were high against Riffa FC.

“Kaleem played the second half despite a minor injury. That’s when we equalised the score. This was our aim for the tour, to play as a unit and make our coach [Mohamed Shamlan] proud.”

The Karachi-based player voiced his optimism regarding preparations for the Asian Games.

“My priority will be to give opportunities to Kaleemullah and other strikers, and create chances for them to score.”

This year, Saddam will be appearing in the Asian Games for the second time in his career.

“Last time I went to Asian Games in 2010, but I only played for 20 minutes. This time around, I feel I have more to offer and the team is going to fight well.”

Saddam will be leaving to join Kyrgyzstan’s FC Dordoi on Tuesday, where he will play for the Central Asian club with national teammates Kaleemullah and Muhammad Adil.

Meanwhile, coach Shamlan said in an official statement that he is happy with the players.

“I’m very proud of the team,” he said. “They’ve brought honour to Pakistan. The team played as a unit and has improved its morale prior to the Asian Games.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2014.