KARACHI: Pakistan’s national football team ended their tour of Malaysia on a high with a 2-0 victory over top-tier club Felda United in a friendly match on Thursday.

Even though the Felda did not play their foreign stars including Serbian Nikolas Raspopovic and Argentina’s Nicolas Velez and gave their youngsters a run as they prepare for the upcoming Malaysian Super League season, it was nevertheless a morale-boosting win for Pakistan who played their first matches during this tour since the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June last year.

The national team has suffered badly in recent years due to a long-running crisis in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) which was resolved in September last year when global football body FIFA appointed a Normalisation Committee to oversee PFF matters.

Following the appointment of the Normalisation Committee, both FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have stressed that they are committed to putting Pakistan football “back on track” and the week-long tour of Malaysia saw the national team train at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

After a 2-2 draw against second-division UKM FC on Wednesday, Pakistan scored a goal in each half to down Felda, who narrowly avoided relegation from the Malaysian Super League last season.

“It was a very good tour for the team overall,” Pakistan head-coach Tariq Lutfi told Dawn from Kuala Lumpur. “The players were waiting for an opportunity to play for a long time and this gave them very good exposure.”

Pakistan took the lead in the 16th minute when youngster Waheed converted a pass from Ali Khan. Nisar made sure of the win with a goal in the 75th. Star striker Kaleemullah, making his return to the national team after he was banished from the side by former PFF chief Faisal Saleh Hayat, saw a goal ruled out in the dying minutes.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2020

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