ISLAMABAD   -   Principle Staff Officer to President Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Syed Sharafat Hussian Bukhari has requested former PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat to set aside personal ego and let the elected federation send the team for World Cup qualifiers against Cambodia.

Talking to The Nation, Sharafat, who is also Islamabad Football Association (IFA) secretary, said: “Now Makhdoom has been elected as vice president in Asian Football Confederation (AFC), so he must put the country ahead over personal interests. It is very golden opportunity for Pakistan football team to play away and home leg matches of FIFA World Cup qualifying round starting from June 6 in Cambodia and then on June 11 in either Lahore or Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad.

“Cambodia is not a strong team so Pakistan team has golden chance of earning qualification for the next round, where Pakistan team would have at least 10 matches both away and home basis. We have requested Makhdoom to think beyond his personal ego and ambitions. Being a Pakistani and former PFF chief, he must allow the elected body to select national team for the mega event,” he added.

He said: “So far the response from Makhdoom is not positive, we are still hopeful that he will realise the situation and importance of Pakistani team’s playing the qualifying round. We are hopeful that FIFA and AFC delegation coming in the last week of this month for meeting with Makhdoom and elected body, they will allow Ashfaq Hussain to send the national team for qualification round against Cambodia.

“As many as 55 players including national team skipper Saddam Hussain have reported to the national camp, which started here at Pakistan Sports Complex from Monday. We are thankful to the IPC Minister, IPC Secretary and PSF DG for allowing the PFF to establish a camp at the PSB premises. They have very kindly provided us free accommodation, Jinnah Stadium and floodlights, as during Ramazan, the national team players will practice and train at 10pm under floodlights under able coaching of Tariq Lutfi.

“Rana Tanveer Javed is coordinator of the camp in Islamabad. We are hopeful that the PSB DG will allow us use the floodlights without any charges, as for the last 7 years, the PFF didn’t get a single penny’s financial grant from the board. We are not only providing meal, but also dailies to all the players as per PFF rules,” he added.

Sharafat said although time is very short and qualifiers are round the corner, yet they are hopeful about very positive results. “Our players are capable of doing wonders for the country. Initially, we will keep 55 players and after a week, we will shortlist them to 30 and hopefully, PFF President Ashfaq Hussian, along with other PFF officials, will announce the national squad on June 3.

“As per FIFA rules, we will reduce the players to 20. We can utilize two venues - Lahore and Islamabad - for the second leg against Cambodia. Jinnah Stadium has hosted a lot of national and international matches and it is fully ready to host Cambodia. If it is decided the match will be played in Islamabad, we have invited same players, who had played in the semifinals in Bangladesh, as they had shown tremendous character and courage and played excellent football,” he added.

“Negotiations with FIFA and AFC are going well, while we also expect Makdoom to play positive role and not to let the country and football suffer more. We must all contribute towards the national cause and set aside personal interests, as football has already suffered a lot and we can’t afford any further let ups. So I once again request Makhdoom to think in the best interest of country and play his positive role,” Shrafat concluded.