Desperate measures: Pakistan footballers leaving for foreign leagues [Express Tribune]

Desperate measures: Pakistan footballers leaving for foreign leagues [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Pakistan’s midfielder Saddam Hussain signed a five-month contract with Larnaka Gençler Birliği SK on Tuesday night after a quick trial for the Northern Cypriot club.

Larnaka Gençler Birliği plays in the Cyprus Turkish Football Association’s KFFT Super Lig of the self-declared state of Northern Cyprus.

What seems like a desperate attempt for Saddam to get into international football, the 23-year-old believes that it is the only choice for him as Pakistan hasn’t been hosting a domestic league and there have been no internationals since March 2015.

Saddam was a part of 2014-15 Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) champion team K-Electric and has won four PPFL titles with former club KRL before going to Kyrgystan’s FC Dordoi Bishkek and Isa Sports FC in Bahrain.

“It has been a very quick trial here in Northern Cyrus,” Saddam told The Express Tribune. “I’m just glad that I am getting an opportunity to play in a football league. My agent suggested it and I took the chance to at least try new things.”

Saddam said he will receive a substantial remuneration from the club. “It is a good package too with US$1,500 per month with all expenses paid. But mostly importantly, I’m happy about my trial here. I came in late on January 20 and had to do my best in whatever little time I had. All I wanted was to impress the coach with my game.”

Saddam’s inclusion in the team was confirmed on the last day of the transfer window January 24. He said that he played for the side in a friendly match and then, at the trials for two days, when the coach decided to sign him up for the club in Larnaca.

“There are players from other countries here as well like Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana among others. Those players were already here for two or three weeks but I’m glad that the coach chose me, now the goal is to give my best and see if I can go to Turkey after this stint,” said Saddam.

He expressed hope that football culture in Pakistan will develop soon. “I hope by the time I’m back PPFL starts. I really wish that someday we get a professional football culture in Pakistan; we’re surviving in this system but our younger generation deserves better. Instead of us, trying to get out there, I hope we improve our football enough that foreign players may come to Pakistan, but till then we can only do what we can.”

Mahpara, Zulfia sign contract with Dubai club

Pakistan national women’s team goalkeeper Mahpara Shahid hopes to expand her experience as she will be joining Rossoneri Dubai FC along with former national teammate and midfielder Zulfia Nazir.

The duo bagged the opportunity after the Dubai-based club’s coaches shortlisted them for a stint at a local tournament and the players will be staying there for the three-month season.

Mahpara said that it was a good opportunity for her as there has not been any international tournament for Pakistan women’s team since 2014 and the local league has also been affected due to an in-fighting among the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) officials which resulted in a court battle in 2015.

“Something’s better than nothing,’ Mahpara told The Express Tribune. “It is an opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll get to learn more about the game and more importantly we’ll get to play football. At home all of us are suffering as there is no national or international activity. I’m hoping that this spell in Dubai would help me groom myself more and I have Zulfia with me so we’ll be together and that does help.”

Mahpara had also gone to Maldives earlier last year but that was for less than a month. She believes that Dubai will be a different ball-game.

“Maldives was great but the duration was very small,” said Mahpara. “Women’s club in Dubai seemed like an interesting option so I’m going for it. We have arranged for our tickets on our own, but the rest will be taken care of by the club, from accommodation to expenses there. Three months are a good period to learn mostly, I’m not expecting big incentives as far as the money is concerned. Mostly this decision is based on the fact that we need to be getting out there to play as Pakistani women.”

Meanwhile, women’s national team coach Tariq Lutfi feels proud of both female players and advised them to keep realistic expectations from the stint.

“I’m happy that they are trying to get out and play. They are both talented but it is important for them to understand the business and their value as players. I wish them all the best.” said Lutfi.

Published in The Express Tribune, 31 January 2017