KARACHI: Saddam Hussain said he wasn’t “taken into confidence” by recently-appointed head coach Shahzad Anwar as the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee on Saturday announced a 36-man shorlist excluding the midfielder that it said would be considered for national duty.

The 29-year-old Saddam had missed a fitness camp that had been organised by the PFF NC in Lahore as he was busy fighting a legal case over the reinstatement of footballers who had been sacked by his departmental side Sui Southern Gas Company.

Saddam told Dawn that he had informed Shahzad of his unavailability for the camp and when he called him on Friday, after “a positive meeting with the SSGC managing director”, he did not receive a response.

Saddam had been named as Pakistan captain by the previous NC setup and has been in excellent form during the intermittent action local footballers have seen during the institutional crisis in the PFF that has affected the game in the country during the best part of the last decade.

“I am yet to receive a call from the head coach,” a dejected Saddam said after the shortlist was announced. “My engagements meant that I could’ve only attended the camp for a day and the head coach had been apprised of the situation. But when I called him yesterday, he did not pick up and today they have announced the selected players.”

Saddam’s SSGC team-mate Saadullah was also excluded from the shortlist, which the NC said “will take part in the national training camp.”

Dawn made several attempts to contact Shahzad but received no response on Saturday.

The NC said the players had been selected on the basis of their “fitness” as it prepares to raise a squad that will take part in the first round of joint qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2027 AFC Asian Cup in October next year.

Shortlisted players:

Goalkeepers: Saqib Hanif, Abdul Basit, Tanveer Mumtaz, Hassan Ali, Salman Ul Haq, Usman Ali; Defenders: Syed Abdullah Shah, Mohammad Rizwan Nawaz, Saeed Khan, Mamoon Moosa Khan, Sardar Wali, Haseeb Ahmed Khan, Mohib Ullah, Ali Khan, Umer Hayat, Zain Jr., Toqeer Ul Hassan, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Waseem Asghar, Mohammad Sohail, Junaid Ahmed Shah; Midfielders: Ali Uzair Mahmood, Zain Sr, Adnan Saeed, Muhammad Khurram, Alamgir Ali Khan Ghaz, Umair Ali, Muhammad Taha; Forwards: Afzal, Shayek Dost, Muhammad Waleed Khan, Moin Ahmed, Muhammad Adeel Younas, Amir Aslam, Mohammad Waheed, Ali Agha.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2022

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