by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: After Maldives football team’s chances of touring Pakistan for a couple of friendlies almost ended, FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee seems to have shifted its focus towards sending its senior team abroad for a few international friendlies.
“It’s confirmed that Maldives are not coming,” a highly credible source told ‘The News’ on Tuesday.
“NC is considering various options and if any foreign team does not come here then it will send its own team abroad as it wants its brigade to return to international circuit as soon as possible,” the source said.
Asked whether Pakistan would now tour Maldives the source said there are several options and the national brigade may go to any country. The source said that the venue is not an issue but “foreign nations prefer to play at their own backyards”.
NC had been making efforts to manage a venue for the home series. Punjab Stadium was one of the likely venues. And effort was being made to seek an alternative venue in Islamabad as the authorities had told NC that Jinnah Stadium located inside the Pakistan Sports Complex was under renovation.
This correspondent tried to contact NC chairman Haroon Malik but he neither received calls nor replied to a whatsapp message.
The source said that various options are being weighed regarding sending the team to either any South Asian country or outside South Asia. Pakistan players have been training at Lahore for the last couple of months to prepare for international return following years of inactivity due to Pakistan’s suspension and internal rifts which inflicted a huge damage on the country’s football.
Pakistan senior team last featured in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia in 2019 summer with the Green-shirts losing both the showdowns held at Cambodia and Doha, which Pakistan used as a home venue.
The internal politics was at such a height at that time that two parallel teams had been formed with the then FIFA-recognised PFF using Bahrain as a training venue for its national brigade.