by Alam Zeb Safi
LAHORE: Pakistan football team head coach Shehzad Anwar has said that the four-nation event in Mauritius will help to build coordination between home-grown and foreign-based players which will benefit the team in the SAFF Cup in India.
“Yes, the Mauritius matches will help us build coordination between local and foreign-based players in the team. And it will be crucial ahead of the SAFF Cup to be held in India which is our main target,” Shehzad told ‘The News’ here on Sunday. “We planned to send the team to Mauritius a few days before the four-nation event in Mauritius but we could not get NOC and are still waiting for that,” he said.
“Our plan was that all nine foreign players would come there and the team would train for a few sessions before the event but it seems that it cannot be done now,” Shehzad said. However, he confirmed that all nine foreign-based players, including Easah Suleman and Otis Khan, will be available for the Mauritius event, also involving Mauritius, Kenya and Djibouti. Both Easah and Otis will make their international debuts for Pakistan in the event which will be played on a single league basis with the team finishing at the top of the points table to be declared the eventual winners.
The event is being held inside FIFA Days. Besides Easah and Otis, the foreign players have played a few matches for Pakistan. Shehzad also revealed that Denmark-based defender Abdullah Iqbal may miss the first match. “Abdullah Iqbal may miss the first match as his team B.93 will play their game of the league on June 11, the day on which Pakistan will face Mauritius,” Shehzad said. “The actual situation will be made clear soon,” he was quick to add. Abdullah was part of Pakistan team in international friendlies against Nepal and Maldives recently.
He said that all foreign-based players will join them in Mauritius. Pakistan will begin their journey with their game against Mauritius on June 11 at the Anjalay Stadium Belle Vue Harel. It will be followed by their match against Kenya on June 14 and Djibouti on June 17. He also made it clear that Pakistan will travel to India directly from Mauritius to feature in the SAFF Cup to be held in Bengaluru from June 21 to July 4.
“We will be short of time and will not be able to return home but will go directly to India from there as all teams have been advised to arrive in India on June 18,” said Shehzad, also an AFC Pro License coach. He said that all players are fit and are in fine shape. “So far we have conducted five sessions at the City School here and the boys have responded well,” Shehzad said.
He said that in Mauritius the weather will be normal but in India mostly there will be rain this month. This is a very crucial year for Pakistan football team which was made active in international circuit only a few months ago when FIFA lifted sanctions.
After suspension was lifted last year Pakistan returned to international circuit with a friendly against Nepal and it was followed by another friendly against Maldives. And FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee is making every effort to give more exposure to the national brigade in order to make it ready for this year’s World Cup Qualifiers which will be held in October.
The four-nation event in Mauritius will help Pakistan to face African nations, which play with a different style. Pakistan’s main focus will be on the SAFF Cup in India, an event which the Green-shirts are yet to win.