9/5/2018 10:46:28 AM (GMT+3)

Three years without funds and action, Pakistan back on football map

Three years without funds and action, Pakistan back on football map

NEW DELHI: Pakistan football team returned to action after three years when they took on Nepal in the opening match of the regional SAFF Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Tuesday. 

Not only the green shirts won 2-1 (Hassan Bashir & Muhammad Ali), they also overcame the gritty challenges that had hit them hard back home due to lack of funds and without any national fixtures in the last three years. 

Pakistan had not been in action since March, 2015 - a goalless World Cup qualifier against Yemen and  that led to an all-time low FIFA ranking of 201 out of 211 countries. 

"To build football in Pakistan is very important. It stopped for a long time so now we need to restart," Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira told bbc.com in a recent interview. "I'll stay in Pakistan for a minimum of three years to review the development of football and young players in order to turn them into a force in Asia."

Things became difficult for the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) following the re-election of Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat as president in June, 2015, but the oppositions alleged that the voting was rigged.

In the aftermath of the involvment of the Lahore High Court-appointed administrator overseeing footballing matters, FIFA suspended PFF because according to the world governing body the sport administration cannot be under the control of any third party.

However, after FIFA lifted the sanctions early this year, efforts were made to put Pakistan back on the football map and the U23 team's participation last month's Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, was the right step towards a positive start. 

In the day's second match, Bangladesh took the lead in the third minute through a penalty by Topu Barman after Saad Uddin was brought down by Tshering Dirji.

Bangladesh added their second when Mahbubur Rahman scored with a rasping shot in the 47th minute.