KARACHI: Eight years after last being in the job, Tariq Lutfi is back as Pakistan head coach.

The latest assignment will see the veteran Lutfi, who has served as the national team gaffer several times during his career, take Pakistan to next month’s South Asian Games.

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee announced Lutfi’s appointment in a news release on Monday, while also informing that the trials and training camp for the team will begin from Tuesday and run until Saturday.

“The Pakistan football team will be participating in the 2019 South Asian Games being held from December 1 to 10 in Pokhara, Nepal,” said the news release.

“In this regard trials and training camp for selection of the team will be held from November 26 to 30 at Jinnah Football Stadium, Islamabad hosted by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).”

Pakistan’s participation at the Games remains subject to accreditation. The accreditation deadline was November 20 but the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) is working to ensure the team’s participation.

The South Asian Games will be the second event to which the PFF Normalisation Committee will be sending the team. The Pakistan Under-19 team is currently in Oman where it is playing the qualifiers for the 2020 AFC Under-19 Championship.

The flurry of activity for the country’s footballers comes after years of crisis in the PFF, which was eventually resolved with global football body FIFA appointing a Normalisation Committee to oversee day-to-day affairs and hold elections by next year.

During his last stint with the team in 2011, Lutfi oversaw defeats for Pakistan in the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup, 2012 Olympic Games and the AFC Challenge Cup.

Since being sacked as Pakistan coach, Lutfi was the coach of a highly successful Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) team, leading them to numerous Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) titles while also being a losing finalist in the AFC President’s Cup in 2014. He is currently coach of Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC).

Lutfi, who will be assisted by Mohammad Arshad and Haroon Yusuf, will have to chose a team from 48 players who have been called up for the camp.

Pakistan, record four-time winners of the South Asian Games, will be allowed to have four players over the age of 23 in their squad.

There remains a strong chance that the core group of players from the Under-19 team — which lost 2-1 to Kuwait in their opening Group ‘A’ match of the AFC Under-19 Championship qualifiers before being hammered 5-1 by Palestine in the second — could be chosen for the Games.

Players invited to training camp:

Goalkeepers: Saqib Hanif, Ahsanullah, Mohammad Umer, Mohammad Fahim, Nasrullah, Yasir, Salman-ul-Haq; Defenders: Waqar Ihtisham, Noor Muhammad, Naveed Ahmad, Ali Khan Niazi, Mehdi Hassan, Waseem Asghar, Mohammad Khuram, Abdul Qadeer, Mamoon Moosa Khan, Saeed Khan, Asad Ullah, Mohammad Sohail, Shoaib Nisar, Shahzad, Sardar Wali, Sami Ullah; Midfielders: Saddam Hussain, Umair Ali, Mohammad Sohail, Ansar Abbas, Arsalan Ali, Mansoor, Ali Uzair Mehmood, Zain ul Abideen Ishaque, Adnan Saeed, Mohammad Afzal, Alamgir Khan Ghazi, Shayak Doost, Mohammad Bilal, Touqeer ul Hassan, Mohammad Saleh, Zaid Umer; Forwards: Saadullah, Iftikhar Ali Khan, Jadeed Khan, Sher Ali, Shah Zaib Masood, Mohammad Waheed, Farhan Khan, Aqib Ali.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2019