Malaysia, Palestine to end Pakistan sports isolation


LAHORE – Football teams of Palestine and Malaysia will tour Pakistan in February and March for home and away series, the Pakistan Football Federation announced on Sunday. The PFF has done what the country’s major sports like cricket and hockey have failed to do – bring international teams to the country.
Although the PHF has announced a series against Egypt but dates of it are yet to be finalised. Palestine footballer will visit Pakistan from February 27 to play two matches at Lahore and Karachi. Addressing a press conference here Sunday at the FIFA Football House, PFF President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat said that he wanted the team to play three matches in each countries but time and financial constraints are hampering not only the series but several other PFF programmes.
The Malaysian team will visit Pakistan in March and Pakistan will reciprocate by visiting Palestine and Malaysia during March and April.
Faisal informed that FIFA grants PFF $ 250,000 in phases while the government gives Rs 1.5 million when Rs 3 million alone were spent on Pakistan team’s Asian Games participation so the PFF generated the money through several other sources.
He said that the PFF has proposed and planned around 34 to 40 events during the year 2011 and an estimated budget to fulfil the needs is of Rs 600 million. He further said that when no one was ready to visit Pakistan, the PFF hosted the Iranian women team in Islamabad and now the Palestine and Malaysian team would tour Pakistan.
“After the series of matches at home, the Pakistan team will tour Thailand for a three-week training session followed by a visit to Malaysia to play matches at Kuala Lumpur,” he added. He further informed that Iran, Korea, Oman, UAE and Sri Lanka have also offered top play home and away series against Pakistan.
“In August and September, Pakistan team will go to South Korea for a four-week preparatory tour to get into shape for the World Cup Qualifying Round,” he added. Apart from this, he informed that PFF has received offers from Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon for similar tours.
The PFF president said that he had written to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani to award financial grant so that the Pakistan team get maximum possible international exposure. “The more we play international matches, the more the team would develop for at least Asian standards. Soccer is not like hockey or cricket which are played in a handful countries. About 200-plus countries play football and competition is very tough in this sport. But still Pakistan team has made its name by beating several teams and drawing against Iraq,” he added.
He also expressed delight for completion of another successful year of football in Pakistan. “Over the last seven years, Pakistani football has registered an unprecedented increase in quality both home and abroad. He also praised the effort of female footballer which earned semi-final berth in only their second international assignment during SAFF Women Championship at Bangladesh.
“This was the event the PFF proposed and similarly we have also proposed SAFF Club Championship,” he added. “With Pakistani blood, our national and age limit outfits are truly blessed with a diverse blend of talent worldwide; the kind of talent capable of making waves across Asia. Even with sizeable annual budget, PFF kept producing sensational results such as overwhelming Kyrgyzstan, Chinese Taipei, Turkmenistan, Singapore, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal while drawing with Iraq, Iran, Oman, China and Bahrain in recent events,” said Faisal, also member of FIFA Disciplinary Committee.
The PFF has also planned friendlies against Palestine in between the Olympic qualifier, with two matches in both nations, followed by 4th AFC Challenge Cup (March 11-26), 7th AFC President’s Cup with WAPDA in the frame (May), 9th SAFF Championship (Oct-Nov), 15th Asian U16 Championship, 20th World Cup QR (Nov-Dec) and 37th Asian U19 Championship (Dec).
“Besides, Iran, South Korea, UAE, Sri Lanka, Syria and Saudi Arabia also shown interest in series against Pakistan team in coming season,” concluded Faisal.