Sunday Oct 13, 2019
KARACHI: Pakistan’s six-a-side football team was forced to make last-minute changes in the Socca World Cup squad after Greece refused visas to numerous players.
Pakistan also had to field the team’s assistant coach, Gohar Zaman, as a player in its warm-up match against Colombia Saturday night. The former football captain played the warm-up match as the team did not have its regular goalkeeper, Rehan Tahir.
An official, who wished not to be named, confirmed that Pakistan were left with no choice but to add Europe-based players or players who already had Schengen visas since most of the other did not receive their visas to participate in the global event in Greek island of Crete.
“Around 15 of our visas applications were turned down,” the official said. “We have now included players who were based in Europe or players who already had required valid visas to ensure Pakistan’s participation in the tournament.
"We have managed to make a good combination and we will produce good results,” he added.
A source privy to matter revealed that a team management official was also asked to remain standby to enter the field as player.
Separately, two of Pakistan’s players, Yousuf Butt and Hassan Bashir, were likely to join the team ahead of Pakistan's campaign that kicks off on Monday with match against Slovenia. Meanwhile, Pakistan defeated Colombia 2-1 in the warm-up match ahead of the Socca World Cup.
A statement from Leisure Leagues, the organisers of the six-a-side football in Pakistan and the team's management, said coach Kevin Reeves had expressed satisfaction over the squad's performance and hoped for them to put the same show in their group matches.
Reeves named Karim Kerai as the team's captain.
Pakistan are placed in Group ‘H’ along with Slovenia, Germany, Hungary, and Romania. After a match against Slovenia, Pakistan would take on Romania on October 15.
Then, a day later on October 16, Pakistan are set to clash with the strong German team, which won the Socca World Cup's inaugural edition last year in Portugal.
In its last group match, Pakistan will take on Hungary on October 17.
The semifinals, third place play-off, and the summit clash will be played on October 20. The closing ceremony will also be held on the same day.