by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Aiming to induct a handful of more overseas players in coming months Pakistan’s senior men’s football team head coach Shehzad Anwar on Saturday said that his brigade is ‘complete’ and it just needs exposure before the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers to be held later this year.
“Our team is complete in every respect and what we need is exposure. I am confident we will be able to prepare a solid lot for the World Cup Qualifiers,” Shehzad told ‘The News’ in an interview after returning from Maldives where Pakistan lost 0-1 in their one-off game against Maldives in Laamu, Gan, on March 21.
This was the second international friendly from Pakistan during the last four months after their first in November 2022 against Nepal in Nepal which also heralded the country’s return to international circuit after long three years.
“We have six goalkeepers and of them three are seniors and three under-22. We have also approached UAE-based goalie Hamza Zahid, who plays for Al-Rams Club, and he will also be available for us for the June FIFA window,” Shehzad revealed.
“Essa Suliman, a defender, who plays in Portugal, will also be available in June. He has completed his documents,” Shehzad said.
“Attacking midfielders Otis Khan from Grimsby Town, which featured recently in the FA Cup, and Adil Nabi, who plays in Athens, will also be with us in June,” the coach said.
“We have time at our disposal and in the meantime if we get any home-grown experienced player in his top shape then we will welcome him to the squad,” Shehzad said when asked whether there will be any room for the experienced footballers to return to the side ahead of the SAFF Cup and World Cup Qualifiers.
Shehzad said it is expected that his charges will be able to get ten to 12 matches before the World Cup Qualifiers which is the main target of Pakistan.
Shehzad said that he has already given training programme to the boys who have now gone to their homes after the Maldives game. “But still we plan to train some boys in Lahore during Ramadan and we will work on some specific areas. And from May 1 we will hold a proper camp at Lahore,” Shehzad said.
“In that time-frame we will release those players who will feature from their respective units in the National Games and after the end of the biennial domestic event they will join us again,” Shehzad said.
About getting India’s visas for the SAFF Cup Shehzad said that he does not think there should be any issue.
“I hope they will give us visas,” said Shehzad, a pro license coach.