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Pakistan’s World Cup qualifiers participation becomes more entangled: Ashfaq-led PFF to hold camp at Islamabad next month

By Alam Zeb Safi
April 27, 2019

KARACHI: In order to counter FIFA-recognised Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) expected move to hold a camp on foreign soil and field the national team in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, the newly-elected PFF headed by Ashfaq Hussain Shah has decided to hold a national camp at Islamabad next month.

In a dramatic development on Friday, Ashfaq-led PFF circulated a letter to all parties concerned, informing that the national team camp would be held at the federal capital from May 5 to June 3 to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers.

“We are pleased to inform you that the players of your department/club (list of players attached) have been selected for the subject training camp being held at Jinnah Stadium Islamabad from May 5 to June 3. In view of the above you are requested to please direct the players to report at Jinnah Football Stadium in Islamabad on May 5 by 3pm,” the letter, signed by its secretary Siddiq Sheikh, said.

The players have also been advised to bring with them complete training kit, passport (validity minimum 10 months) and medical fitness certificates and reports (ECG, CBC, hepatitis B and C).

Siddiq Sheikh told ‘The News’ after releasing the letter that he told his staff that the players could not get their medical tests conducted and that it was the responsibility of the federation if required at any stage.

“I assure you that no body needs to produce medical certificates. We will conduct tests if we feel necessary at any stage of the camp,” Sheikh said.

Pakistan have been drawn with Cambodia in the qualifiers whose first leg will be held on June 6. The second will be on June 11.

Asia’s lowest-ranked 12 teams, including Pakistan, have been drawn recently at Kuala Lumpur. The six winners will join the 34 top-ranked Asian teams in the second round in September.

Pakistan’s most experienced coach Tariq Lutfi has been appointed the head coach. Sheikh said that Tariq had the power to finalise his support staff. “Tariq, as the head coach, can pick his support staff. If he did not do so, then we would,” he said.

Sheikh said that due to Ramadan-ul-Mubarak training would be conducted at night. “We have requested the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for floodlights as the boys will undergo training after Iftar,” Sheikh said.

The development has made the situation interesting. Ashfaq-led PFF cannot send the team because it is not recognised by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Faisal-led PFF, being a FIFA-recognsied body, can field a team in the qualifiers but it may face legal issues at home.

Sources in the Ashfaq-led PFF said that FIFA-recognised PFF had been weighing options to hold a camp at Qatar or Brazil. Sheikh said that Faisal’s group was conspiring against the decision of the Supreme Court by weighing options to hold a camp on foreign soil.

“They have accepted the results of the elections and have handed over control of the PFF to the new body. Why are they now doing this? Our body has been formed as a result of the Supreme Court-ordered elections and we are doing our job,” Sheikh said.

When this correspondent asked a key source of the FIFA-recognised PFF about their intention to field team in the qualifiers he refused to comment on the issue. “I cannot comment at this stage,” he said.

A joint mission of FIFA and AFC is scheduled to land in Lahore on May 28 to meet all parties concerned and to find ways to resolve the issue.

Camp probables: Goalkeepers: Saqib Hanif (SSGC), Ahsanullah (SSGC), Tanvir Mumtaz (KRL), Mohammad Fahim (Muslim FC), Sumair (PCAA, late added)

Defenders: Umar Hayat (WAPDA), Arslan Ali (KRL), Naved Ahmed (Navy), Mehdi Hassan (PAF), Ali Khan Niazi (K-Electric), Mohammad Shahid (KRL), Waseem Asghar (PCAA), Mohammad Bilal (WAPDA)

Midfielders: Umair Ali (KRL), Mehmood Khan (SSGC), Saddam Hussain (SSGC), Zain-ul-Abdeen (K-Electric), Rajab Ali (KRL), Zaid Umar (KRL), Ali Uzair (WAPDA), Habib-ur-Rehman (SSGC), Mohammad Riaz (K-Electric), Izharullah (KRL)

Forwards: Raziq (SSGC), Mansoor Khan (PAF), Yousuf Ahmed (KRL), Ahmed Fahim (WAPDA), Mohammad Naeem (PCAA), Shehzad (PCAA), Iftikhar (KRL), Sohail (PCAA), Sadullah (SSGC), Kaleemullah (Najaf FC, Iraq).

According to PFF vice-president Naved Haider, five players from the ongoing Inter-City Football event would also be added to the list.