KARACHI: Young goalkeeper Saqib Hanif has been declared “a great future asset for Pakistan” by coach Aslam Khan after his valiant work at the 2013 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Saudi Arabia recently.
“I think the way Saqib played in the Asian Cup Qualifiers was tremendous and I think he is a great future asset,” Aslam told ‘The News’ in an interview on Sunday. “At one stage we were undecided about who should be handed over the gloves in the opener against Saudi Arabia as our other two keepers, Muzammil Hussain and Tanvir Mumtaz, were also very talented. But we decided to opt for Saqib and he lived up to the expectations by saving several sure goals against that mighty side,” Aslam recalled.
Saudi Arabia had snatched a victory against Pakistan by a lone goal as Saqib’s splendid keeping saved many. If not for him, Pakistan could have conceded six or even eight goals.
“The boy played well in the rest of the matches as well and I am now happy that all my efforts have turned productive as the officials of Saudi Arabia team and the management of other participating teams said that the Pakistani keeper has played tremendously,” the coach revealed.
“One thing which I noted in Saqib is that he is very bold and courageous,” the coach said. “Goalkeeping apparently looks an easy job but I think it is the toughest and most pressurizing job in football but the way Saqib handled pressure in the qualifiers was encouraging,” said Aslam, who has to his credit the development of Jaffar Khan, the country’s most experienced goalkeeper and the national senior team’s skipper.
“During my training as a goalkeeping coach I have learnt how mentally the keepers could be made tough. I have worked a lot on Saqib and am very happy that he has been very responsive to what I teach him,” Aslam said.
To a query, Aslam said that Saqib had the guts and could turn out to be a class gloveman. “Some people say that goalkeeper is fifty percent of the team but I think the goalkeeper has 90 percent role in a team’s success and particularly for a weaker side like Pakistan the importance of keeper is even more,” he said.
Pakistan finished at the lowest position in the qualifiers, securing just a single point, in a goalless draw against Sri Lanka. Zavisa’s charges failed to score even a single goal in the whole tournament, while they conceded eight in the process.
“All the three keepers could be declared as world-class keepers and I hope that the trio will serve the country excellently in future,” said Aslam Khan, who attended International DFB Coaching Course in Germany in 2007.
Saqib has left PEL and joined KRL. He was also part of the senior team at the SAFF Cup in New Delhi in last December.