Saddam, Saqib eager to represent Pakistan again [The News]

Saddam, Saqib eager to represent Pakistan again [The News]

by Alam Zeb Safi

LAHORE: Despite super fitness and engagement in the league in Oman, former Pakistan captain Saddam Hussain has been overlooked for the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers so far.

At a time when several overseas players were called up to become part of the national brigade Saddam was not given any consideration. Pakistan still have to play four matches in their World Cup Qualifiers second round in March and June and Saddam could be a choice of the head coach if the player is called up for the camp being planned for the March matches against Jordan.

Saddam on Monday expressed his desire to return to the national team. “Yes I am itching to play for my country,” Saddam told ‘The News’ from Oman. “I am super fit and have been playing league here for Salalah Club. And I will always be ready whenever my country needs my services,” he said.

“It depends on the football authorities in Pakistan to contact me for the next camp,” Saddam was quick to add. “You know the quality of football in Oman. It’s fine. We have played seven matches in the league so far and a few remain. There was a three-week off due to the Asian Cup in Qatar and after a week it will be known when the league is to resume,” he said.

“Since landing here a few months ago I have been regularly playing football and am in the best shape these days,” Saddam said.

“The club is looking after me very well and I am happy,” he said. Saddam was also not part of the Pakistan team’s building phase under former head coach Shehzad Anwar.

This correspondent understands that when Saddam joined Salalah Sports Club a coach had suggested to the Pakistan football authorities that Saddam should also be called for the camp but the player was ignored.

Meanwhile, the country’s seasoned goalkeeper Saqib Hanif, who is set to play league in the Maldives for Victory Sports Club this season which begins on Tuesday (today), has also shown his availability for the coming World Cup Qualifiers matches.

“Whenever I am called up they will find me in top shape,” Saqib told The News from Maldives. Saqib has been playing league in the Maldives for many years. When Pakistan’s football was suffering due to various reasons and there were no activities Saqib was seen playing in the Maldives.

Although he could not make a place in the national elite squad for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers first round against Cambodia the gloveman said that he has worked hard and has attained top fitness.

“Yes, I am in super shape,” Saqib said. Saqib was part of the team’s building phase under former head coach Shehzad Anwar but did not impress under the cage in a few events. However, when the national team camp started for the preparation of the World Cup Qualifiers first round against Cambodia Saqib was there in the camp. It was expected that he would be able to find a place in the squad but he did not impress the head coach Stephen Constantine and faced the axe.

Pakistan team created history when they qualified for the second round for the World Cup Qualifiers for the first time in history when they defeated Cambodia in Islamabad. However, in the second round Pakistan have played two matches against Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan in which the Green-shirts remained unimpressive.

Saudi Arabia conquered Pakistan 4-0 in Al-Ahsa on November 16 before they went down to Tajikistan 6-1 in Islamabad on November 21. Pakistan will now face Jordan in March both on home and away basis while in June Pakistan will meet Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan.

Published in The News, 26 December 2023