Pakistan look towards foreign players in bid to improve rankings [Express Tribune]

Pakistan look towards foreign players in bid to improve rankings [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Pakistan look to pick up the pieces as they look to recover from the farce that had seen FIFA ban the Pakistan Football Federation, bringing the sport to a halt in the country and leaving the team lodged firmly as the worst team in the world.

The 203rd ranked side are now looking towards foreign-based players of Pakistani origin in order to give the team a boost and shoot up the rankings, with Norwegian midfielder Ghayas Zahid in the mix to represent the country at the upcoming Asian Games and the South Asian Football Federation.

Zahid recently became the first player of Pakistani descent to play in the Champions League while playing for Cypriot club APOEL FC in the group stages this year.

The 23-year-old Zahid recently said he wants to play at the highest level and has been holding out for a place in the Norwegian national side, with Pakistan firmly second choice.

“I want to say I’m a nice mix of Norwegian and Pakistani,” Zahid told Norwegian news outlet VG.

‘PFF looking at the best players, coaches’

Pakistan’s first Asian Football Confederation Pro licenced coach Shehzad Anwar, who is also PFF’s technical director, has revealed that they are looking at the best players for the Asian Games set to take place in Indonesia in August and the SAFF Championship in Bangladesh in September.

“We are looking at a number of foreign players,” Anwar told The Express Tribune. “We have a full list and Zahid is on that list. We will be approaching others as well. We are working on it and the idea is to start competing in international events while also resuming national events, starting with the Challenge Cup, once again.”

The  technical director also added that the national team is looking for head coaches for both the men’s and women’s team and is looking towards Bahrain and Japan for suitable candidates.

“Bahrain gave us a coach before and we are also talking to Japan for a female coach for the women’s team,” said Anwar, but did say that he is willing to take up the responsibility himself if offered the job.

The track record of Bahraini coach Mohammed Shamlan had been far from impressive for Pakistan but the coach is being paid by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Chief Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim alKhalifa rather than the PFF.

“We might get Shamlan again,” said Anwar. “He is not working for free, of course, he does get paid by the Bahrain football association, but at the moment we are working on these things.”

Meanwhile, PFF Deputy Secretary General Fahad Khan has refused to comment on the issue but did admit that the PFF is seeking player for upcoming international events. However, Zahid’s former club Valerenga recently revealed that they had been contacted by Fahad to ask about his international availability, only to be told that he had since left for APOEL.

The PFF has also been approved a grant of $300,000 by the AFC.

Published in The Express Tribune, 6 April 2018