‘Pakistan will be different unit in Cambodia qualifiers’ [The News]

‘Pakistan will be different unit in Cambodia qualifiers’ [The News]

by Alam Zeb Safi

LAHORE: There is a big question mark that how the recently-hired English football coach Stephen Constantine will be able to get the best out of Pakistan senior men’s football team during the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia in the next few days.

Stephen has hardly trained his charges for four or five days. And it is not an easy task for a new coach to understand his charges in such a short time and teach them his philosophy. Despite knowing all such hurdles, Stephen, also a former India head coach, on Friday said that Pakistan will be a “different” unit in the Qualifiers against Cambodia.

“I cannot predict what will happen in the coming games but I think the attitude of the players and their willingness to play is exceptional. You will see a different Pakistan team in both the games in Cambodia and in Islamabad. I don’t know if we win both games or we qualify but you will see the players play what we wanted them to play and that’s for sure,” Stephen told a group of reporters.

Pakistan will travel to Cambodia for the first leg to be staged on October 12 before hosting Cambodia in their home leg at the Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad, on October 17.

“We hardly got a few days here and we have worked with this group for four to five days. Of course it’s not easy. They have worked very hard. Yesterday’s session was excellent and today it was good. The boys are giving everything they have. They seem to be very much motivated. I have spoken to the overseas players and they also seem motivated and they want to play for Pakistan,” Stephen said.

“I think everyone realises these two games (are) massive for Pakistan football’s future. And we will give everything we have in both games and make a little bit of history going into the second round. I think if we focus on the game and if we get the support from the people around us it’s possible,” Stephen said.

“There are 211 countries which play football around and we (Pakistan) are ranked 197. It’s about time we change that. And only way we can change that is by the support of everybody, not three or four people in the PFF but the whole community will have to be united and back Pakistan football as one family,” the coach said.

Asked from whom he got input before finalising the squad which also carries seven overseas players, Stephen said he had got through the skeleton reports from all the overseas players. “I have also their match reports and I have spoken to the five boys out of seven overseas. Among the local players some are under-23 and they had a recent tournament and I have enough people on the ground to help me in terms of selection. We have a goalkeeper coach who will decide on goalkeepers. I think it’s not ideal but this is the situation which we have. I would like to have a month or six weeks but we don’t have a month or six weeks,” he said.

Asked about the difference between Pakistan and India as far as football is concerned, the former India manager said that the talent in Pakistan is not being developed. “We don’t have a professional league in Pakistan which is a major problem, the biggest problem I will say,” he said.

Published in The News, 7 October 2023