KARACHI: Pakistan continues to bolster its footballing ties with countries in the Middle East.

Already having the support of Bahrain, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) signed a five-year agreement with the Qatar Football Association (QFA) for mutual cooperation in all fields of football development.

The deal had been inked on the weekend in Doha with the details of it officially announced by the PFF on Monday.

It follows a visit from members of the QFA in March last year to the country where they assured Pakistan of full support in uplifting the game here.

The Pakistan national team already have head-coach Mohammed Al Shamlan from Bahrain on free from the Bahrain Football Association and most recently visited the country in August for a few practice games in preparation for the Asian Games.

The women’s team, meanwhile, visited Bahrain in October for a series of friendlies to prepare for the SAFF Women’s Championship last month.

Now the teams can look forward to going to Qatar, who will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and benefit from the high-quality sporting infrastructure and equipment there.

“The agreement is based on mutual cooperation in all fields of football development including national teams, youth teams and grassroots level,” said a PFF news release on Monday.

“The national teams covered in the agreement are the men’s national teams, Olympic team, women’s national teams, youth teams (both men and women) and the futsal team.”

PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi who was in Doha for the signing of the deal, said the agreement will have a long-lasting effect on the development of Pakistan football.

“Qatar has amazing facilities for training and is developing state-of-the-art infrastructure for the World Cup,” Lodhi told Dawn on Monday.

“The exposure our players will get from going there, training there and playing there would be immense.”

The agreement will also see QFA and PFF joining hands to share transfer of knowledge, hold seminars and discuss collaboration at competition levels.

The two parties carried out a two-day workshop involving officials from both sides to identify areas which QFA and PFF would look at to take the game forward.

Representatives from Qatar Stars League (QSL), Aspire Academy and Aspetar joined QFA’s Executive Committee members and head of the National Teams Committee during their extensive discussions with the PFF delegation which also included marketing manager Sardar Naveed Haider Khan and manager marketing and integrity Fahad Ayaz.

“The two parties agreed to cooperate with each other in developing existing ties between them. QFA and PFF will join hands to promote the growth of the game in Qatar and Pakistan,” QFA vice-presedint Saoud Al Mohannadi said in a statement.

The Aspire Academy is one of the world’s most advanced complexes where Europe’s top clubs regularly seek refuge during their winter break.

“The chance to train at world-class facilities would be very beneficial for our young team,” Sardar Naveed told Dawn. “This is a historic agreement which will see Pakistan football grow tremendously.”

The academy boasts seven full-size outdoor pitches, as well as hundreds of individual training areas, including performance-enhancement laboratories, two altitude laboratories and biomechanical labs with mental training and sports psychology areas also in place.

This year, Serie A’s top sides Juventus and Napoli will use the academy for training for the final of the Italian Super Cup, also in Doha, on Dec 22.

“The cooperation between Serie A and QFA will not be limited to hosting a single match of the Super Cup,” Serie A CEO Marco Brunelli said last week when the trophy was presented at the Aspire Academy.

“This is just a beginning. The common interest will be some of our big clubs which need places like the Aspire Academy to prepare for the second part of the season.”

Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, meanwhile, will be holding a winter break training camp in Qatar for the fifth straight year, a statement on the club website said last week.

Maybe using the same facilities that top players and clubs use can inspire PFF to fulfil their ‘Vision 2022’ plan — one which aims to see Pakistan competing at the Qatar World Cup.

Published in Dawn December 16th , 2014

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