Harun stars in Pakistan win over Cambodia [The News]

Harun stars in Pakistan win over Cambodia [The News]

by Abdul Mohi Shah

ISLAMABAD: Harun Hamid made Pakistan proud as the Greenshirts created history, registering their first ever World Cup Soccer qualifying round win to progress to the next stage following an action packed duel against Cambodia at the Jinnah Stadium here Tuesday.

Harun broke the ice in 68th minute to give Pakistan 1-0 victory following a barren first leg held in Cambodia and 67 minutes of the second leg Tuesday. Harun grabbed the opportunity at the top of the striking circle to dodge the Cambodian goalkeeper at his left side to the jubilation of the almost 13 thousand crowd that turned up to see both teams in action.

“I am thankful to the crowd for the support that kept us in the game throughout. Now we are going to the next round with a hope to do well. We would InshaAllah play even better football in the next round,” Harun said following his fabulous strike that stunned Cambodians.

Pakistan was slow to start, with Cambodians making full use of the early opportunities to unleash some repeated attacks against Pakistan. Sor Rotana and Sieng Chanpolin were two outstanding forwards for the visitors as Pakistan goalkeeper Yousaf Ejaz Butt was seen coming to the rescue on numerous occasions.

Once the game entered into the second half, Pakistan outfit gave a different look. Pakistan forwards Fareedullah, Samad and Harun made good efforts to crack Cambodian defence. Often they were seen piercing through the defenders only to strike straight in the lap of the man under the bar.

Two fabulous opportunities were missed minutes after the lemon break as Fareedullah hit wide and two were easily taken by the Cambodian goalkeeper Soeuy Visal. The visitors also had their chances more due to the better mid-field possession where Pakistan were lacking.

It was then left to Harun to get the first goal following almost 158 minutes (including first leg) of no goal. Once he sliced the ball into the net, Cambodians were stunned before unleashing an all-out attack to draw level. Couple of times they came very close to taking the game into the extra time. Ejaz’s timely interception and some unexpected mishits came in the way.

“It is a great day for Pakistan football as for the very first time ever, we have achieved a win in the World Cup qualifying round. Players fought till the last and made every effort to keep the lead intact. The victory here will surely boost the interest for football in the country,” Pakistan team head coach Stephen Constantine said in a post-match media talk.

The Pakistan coach, who is not sure of his future association with the national team, said that he had achieved his first target and that was to help Pakistan win their first ever World Cup qualifying round match.

“I was on a short contract with the PFF NC and now it is up to them to decide my future association with the national team. I am glad that I have achieved my target,” he said. Following the win Pakistan now have been grouped with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tajikistan in Pool G for the qualification round. The Group G activities will start in November.

Pakistan only managed to draw three of their previous 32 games they have played so far in an effort to make it to the World Cup, scoring 10 goals against 124 they conceded in the process. For the first now the Greenshirts have scored a goal without any reply.

Published in The News, 18 October 2023

Crowd makes football match worth remembering

ISLAMABAD: Some noisy and enthusiastic crowd at the Jinnah Stadium on the occasion of Pakistan-Cambodia World Cup qualifying match cleared all the doubts on fans’ support for the game of soccer and their eagerness to see the national outfit making strides.

Over 13000 enthusiasts enjoyed exciting football with all staying with the action till the end. “We love football and want the Pakistan team to make rapid progress. Believe me if the system gets going, we could see talent emerging from everywhere,” Noman Yousaf, a club footballer said while talking to ‘The News’ following the match which Pakistan won 1-0.

He said the victory here would inject fresh interest. “I don’t think there is any dearth of interest in football, yet I believe that this victory would go a long way in promoting the game further.”

Mohammad Khalid who recently retired after representing Ravi Club, wished to see more such matches. “It is time to invest in football. Organise more matches and help players by promoting league football.”

Hamid Mateen was also excited to see such enthusiasm. “Never before have I seen such an enthusiastic crowd here. Following the 2004 SA Games such a huge crowd has gathered here to watch football.”

Minister dedicates win to whole nation

ISLAMABAD: Federal Information Minister Murtaza Ali Solangi dedicated the World Cup Football qualifying round win to the nation, saying that “this victory is not for the football team alone but for the nation.”

The minister watched most of the match between Pakistan and Cambodia at the Jinnah Stadium where no less than 15,000 spectators enjoyed some exciting moments. “It is a victory for the nation, for football and for the country’s sports,” Murtaza Solangi said.

The minister who was also accompanied by Ahmad Hanif Orakzai (secretary Ministry of IPC) and Director General Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), said that football is a game of masses.

“Look at the enthusiastic crowd. The match has provided real thrill to the spectators at the stadium. It was very encouraging to see them fully backing the team. Indeed, soccer is a game for masses and not for elites.”

He praised the IPC ministry and PSB for getting the venue ready for the international match. “All the arrangements are really impressive. The ministry and PSB’s role is praiseworthy.” Solangi said unfortunately politics reigns supreme in sports.

“There is an unchecked politics in soccer which hinders progress. Hopefully, those running the federation these days would realize the urgency of matter and would try to solve the long standing problems.” He also praised the Cambodian team for playing good football. “Cambodia also played exciting soccer to enthrall the crowd. Congratulations to them for keeping the crowd in business.”