Palestine national football team, which reached the city Friday, will take on Pakistan team for an international friendly football fixture here at the Punjab Football Stadium tomorrow (Sunday).

Talking to The Nation on Friday, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col (r) Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi said: “After the terrorist attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, Pakistan simply had become a ‘No-Go Area’ for the foreign sports teams and players. It was the PFF which arranged a series of international events in the country in which the countries like Palestine, Bangladesh, Iran, Sri Lanka, UAE, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan had participated which helped the country present its softer image to rest of the world.”

“Despite financial constraints and without any governmental or corporate support, the PFF managed to provide extensive international exposure to all age level teams including U-13, U-14, U-16, U-19, U-22, U-23 and senior national team by arranging approximately 205 international matches in last 10 years.”

“Current tour of Palestine is yet another achievement of the PFF. During its stay in Pakistan, the guests will play one international friendly with hosts on October 12. The PFF also arranged a three-day training camp for green shirts. The training sessions are being closely observed by head coach Shamlan al Mubarak who has already made an impression by his hard work and improvisation,” Lodhi said.

“Pakistan and Palestine has a short history of football matches mainly developed during the last decade since we took over. This is the second tour of Palestine to Pakistan. Before this, they played two-match friendly series against Pakistan in year 2011 and won the series by winning the first match 2-1 at Karachi and playing 0-0 draw in the second match at Lahore. A very prominent element of these matches remained the attendance of Palestinian community at both matches in a healthy number,” he stated.

He said that Pakistan team had also visited Palestine twice, both times to take part in Al-Nakba International Tournament. “In 2012, Pakistan played a 2-2 draw but lost 3-0 to Palestine in year 2014.”

“It is appreciably interesting that when no international sporting event is being held in Pakistan by any other major sports body, it is the PFF time and again taking the lead and providing an opening for the rest of sports disciplines to follow the footmarks,” he concluded.

Sharing his veiws, PFF chief Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat said: “My emphasis is always building strong relationships with the international sporting authorities because it brings opportunities for our players. It also helps a lot in promoting a soft image of the country across the world.

“If we compare both the teams as far as FIFA ranking is concerned, Palestinians stand much higher and the difference is huge. They have much more international exposure as the matches inside Palestine are difficult to arrange due to the political situation there. Palestinians are also enjoying high moral after beating India 3-2 in India few days earlier.” 

Though Pakistan squad was missing its star players Kaleem Ullah, M Adil, Saddam Hussain, M Ahmed, who are engaged with their international clubs Dordoi FC and Essa Town FC, yet the PFF spokesman confirmed to this scribe three main players Kaleem, Saddam and Ahmed will play the important fixture and their presence would certainly enhance the team’s winning chances.

Squad: Saqib Hanif, Bilawal Ur Rehman, Mehmood Khan, Kaleem Ullah, Ehsan Ullah, Saddam Hussain, M Salman, Muzammil Hussain, M Ahmed, M Bilal, Husnain Shah, Ehsan Ullah, Manssor Khan, Gazanfar, AB Rehman, M Riaz, Naveed Ahmed , Shahroz, Mohsin Ali, Subhan, Umair Ali, Amjad, Raza Ali, Abdul Salam, M Tahir, Nisar Ahmed.

Team officials will be Shamlan Al Mubarik (head coach & manager), Hassan Baloch and Tanvir Ahmed (assistant coach), Zahid Taj (goalkeeper coach), M Aslam (physio specialist) and Asghar Khan Anjum (assistant manager).