Punjab Stadium hosts country’s first international in three years

Palestinian football team first to visit since 2011

Our Correspondent October 11, 2014

KARACHI: Pakistan host Palestine in a friendly match at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore on Sunday, with the Palestinian side being the first to visit the country in over three years mainly due to security concerns.

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) welcomed the Palestinian team at the Football House on Friday, with the two teams practicing for the friendly at the stadium on Saturday.

PFF secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi said that the two countries have a special bond and, more importantly, an emotional connection that will be on display at the match. “We welcome the Palestinians, and we are glad to host an event for them,” Lodhi told The Express Tribune. “It is the third time that the Palestinian team is visiting Pakistan. They are our brothers and it is great that we are able to bond with them over football.”

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference, Palestinian coach Saeb TK Jeneya said that his squad is happy to visit Pakistan, which is like a second home to him and his team.

Stand-in captain

Muhammad Ahmed will wear the armband in the absence of captain Kaleemullah Khan, who decided to opt out of the friendly.

Ahmed said that the team’s morale is high and hopefully the experience that the players have gained from touring India and competing at the Asian Games will benefit them.

Kaleemullah, who plays for Kyrgyzstan’s FC Dordoi, said that he decided to skip the friendly as he feels the squad is ‘incomplete’, adding that he and teammate Saddam Hussain were asked to return to the country for the match by the PFF but he declined to do so. Pakistan will also be without FC Dordoi midfielder Muhammad Adil, who was not included in the squad, with his exclusion upsetting the captain.

“I took a stand because I want good players in the team,” Kaleemullah told The Express Tribune. “Adil didn’t play at the Asian Games due to his injury, but now he is fit to play and is training for FC Dordoi. Similarly our team needs foreign-based players like Hassan Bashir, Yousuf Butt, Aitizaz Hussain. At the Asian Games, we really had no options.”

Kaleemullah added that he also cannot come back for the match from Kyrgyzstan as FC Dordoi played their Super Cup final yesterday – which FC Dordoi won thanks to a Kaleemullah goal – and he will therefore be unable to make the flight back and compete in the match. However, the captain emphasised the importance of the friendly, especially with the 2018 World Cup qualifiers coming up.

“If we win this match against Palestine, we rise to 140th in the rankings,” he said. “This will make it easier for us in the qualifiers.”

Pakistan are currently ranked 175th, while their opponents are 102nd in the Fifa rankings, having improved considerably since their last trip to Pakistan in 2011, when they were ranked 158th.


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M Ali Khan | 7 years ago | Reply

Well done Kaleem. Finally someone has spoken the truth! International football should select the best out there regardless where they play, not "exposure" trips. The quality of current squad - many of whom have been regular in international football for years - will not improve if they play on their own when they need quality in the middle to rise on the occasion.

Shahrukh Sohail | 7 years ago | Reply

Finally, the captain says it in public. PAKISTAN CANNOT PROGRESS WITHOUT FOREIGN-BASED PLAYERS! The PFF needs to stop this discrimination and play our best team regardless of which country the players play in!

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