National camp for World Cup qualifiers begins today

Our Correspondent
Tuesday, Sep 19, 2023

LAHORE: National footballers will assemble here on Tuesday (today) to kick-start their preparation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia.

The Qualifiers first leg will be held in Cambodia on October 12 with the second leg to be hosted by Pakistan on October 17 at the Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad. A source in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee on Monday confirmed to The News that Punjab Stadium, Lahore, will be utilised for the purpose.

“Yes, the camp will be held at the Punjab Stadium,” the source told this correspondent. The coaching panel, which will initially handle the camp, includes Sajjad Mehmood, Hassan Baloch and Jaffar Khan.

Sajjad, a former KRL head coach, served as assistant to former Pakistan coach Akhtar Mohiuddin. Hassan Baloch served as assistant coach with former coach Mohammed Shamlan for two years.

Both Sajjad and Hassan are AFC A License A coaches and have a vast experience of coaching. Jaffar is a well-known name in Pakistan’s football circuit. He is a former Pakistan captain. He will train goalkeepers. The trio recently handled Pakistan Under-16 team in the SAFF Cup in Bhutan. However, The News learnt that NC has not issued any official letter of the appointment of these coaches. They have only been verbally told that they should start the camp.

An NC source said that a foreign coach is also under radar and very soon the picture will become clear. On the other hand this correspondent has learnt that NC is facing financial issues and has also not paid to its teams’ players and officials who have done national duty during the last few months.

Sources said if a foreign coach is not hired for the senior team then FIFA will be contacted for seeking relaxation as far as coaches’ qualification is concerned. NC took an immature decision recently to ignore Shehzad Anwar as head coach after his team failed to click in the 2024 Under-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Bahrain. Shehzad worked as head coach of the senior team for one year.

He knows the players well and he was the only person who also was in contact with the diaspora players during the whole year and had good understanding of them. However, his removal at a stage when the World Cup Qualifiers are just around the corner may leave a bad impact on Pakistan’s performance.

The PFF NC has already announced 40 probables for the camp. However, it is not yet known how many diaspora players will be given a chance. Shehzad had groomed nine diaspora players during the last one year with the aim to build a solid squad for the World Cup Qualifiers.

Camp probables: Goalkeepers: Saqib Hanif, Abdul Basit, Usman Ali, Hasan Ali, Salman-ul-Haq, Defenders: Qurban Ali, Miraj Uddin, Umar Javed, Ali Khan Nizi, Mohammad Hamza Munir, Junaid Shah, Mohibullah, Haseeb Ahmed Khan, Mamoon Moosa Khan, Mohammad Sohail, Mohammad Sufyan, Saeed Khan, Saeed Abdullah Shah,

Midfielders: Alamgir Ali Khan, Umair Ali, Zahid Shah, Rajab Ali, Zaid Umar, Abdul Razzaq, Nizam Uddin, Abdullah Iqbal, Mohammad Taha, Ali Uzair Mehmood, Harun Arrashid Faheem, Mohammad Hayyan Khatak.