Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Pakistan football captain and Kyrgyzstan giants Dordoi FC’s striker Kaleemullah has stressed that quality players should be picked for next year’s World Cup 2018 qualifiers.
“The authorities should consider quality. Besides picking the home-grown cream lot, if a quality player of Pakistani origin lives in Europe or anywhere in the world he should be given the chance,” Kaleem told ‘The News’ here on Sunday.
“Had we got a few better players we could have qualified for the next round at the Incheon Asian Games this year,” said Kaleem. Pakistan faced a first round exit in the Asiad after losing to North Korea and China without scoring a single goal.
Kaleem has signed a lucrative Rs10 million two-year deal with Dordoi Bishkek being managed by Serbian Zavisa Milosavljevic, Pakistan’s former coach.
Kaleem guided Dordoi to a title winning triumph in Kyrgyzstan’s top flight this year by scoring 18 goals, the highest number of goals which have been scored by any player of the same club since 2004.
Kaleem then led Dordoi to win the Super Cup crown, landing four goals. For his superb performance Kaleem has also been nominated for the ‘best player of the year’ award.
“I think we should learn from our mistake and make serious effort for building a strong side for the World Cup qualifiers,” said the Chaman-born striker, who is famous for his remarkable stamina and immense scoring power.
“We should learn from the war-ravaged Palestine and Afghanistan who have been progressing despite so many problems. It is because they believe in quality and merit and pick most of their national team players playing in top football environment abroad,” Kaleem pointed out. After spending some time with his family in Balochistan, Kaleem will now proceed to Bishkek in a couple of days to join Dordoi who will prepare for the AFC Cup in February.
Diminutive winger Mohammad Adil and Saddam Hussain are the other Pakistani footballers playing for Dordoi.
“The authorities will have to provide all kind of facilities to their players aiming to prepare for the qualifiers besides giving them ample international exposure,” said the player.
“We will need to play friendlies against tough sides. Unless you play against top teams your game will not improve,” Kaleem said.
To a query he said in the World Cup qualifiers football fans of Pakistan would see a different Kaleem.
“I can claim that by playing in the professional environment of Kyrzgystan I have improved a lot. Everything is professional and when you play under the best coaches, it instills a lot of confidence in you and enhances your career,” he said.
“In Kyrgyzstan, football is taken very seriously. And the key thing which I have noticed there is the discipline. They don’t compromise on merit and discipline. If a player breaks discipline, he is heavily fined,” he said. “Pakistan also needs to bring in money in its league. Sport has become a business now. If a player does not have money to survive how will he focus on his game?
“We have immense talent in Pakistan but we should think why we are lagging behind. It’s time to take positive steps.”
Kaleem had played a key role in KRL’s title triumphs in the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) in the past few years. Kaleem was also saddened by the way his former club KRL are performing in the league.
“It’s pathetic. I am really sad for KRL who have gone down in the league,” he said. The draws for the first round of the World Cup qualifiers will take place on February 10 and for the second on April 11.
In the first round, the lowest-ranked outfits will play home-and-away over two legs.
In the second round, the 40 teams will be placed in eight pools of five teams each and the eight group-winners and the four best group runners-up will advance to the third round of World Cup qualifiers as well as the AFC Asian Cup finals 2019.
Besides World Cup qualifiers, the Pakistan senior team will also play in the SAFF Cup later in India next year.