It’s extremely rare for a footballer to take positives from his team finishing bottom of their group at an international tournament without a single victory or solitary goal.

However Rahis Nabi believes Pakistan’s performances at the recent South Asian Football Federation Championship (SAFF) should be viewed beyond the results.

The Birmingham-born midfielder, who made his international debut in 2019, explained: “On the face of it three defeats doesn’t look very good, but you have to look at the bigger picture.

"The only way players can gel together and put into practice what the manager wants them to do is by playing regularly.

“Anyone who follows Pakistani football knows that a lack of games has been an issue. But having three competitive games back-to-back is a major positive. We must build on this now.”

(Due to various reasons Pakistan played less than 10 competitive fixtures from 2015 to 2019).

The 14th edition of the championship was being held in India, with the Shaheens finding themselves in a group alongside the hosts, Nepal and guests Kuwait. In preparation for SAFF the Pakistanis were involved in a four-team friendly tournament in Mauritius (where they lost all three games).

A delay in obtaining visas meant that the entire squad arrived in Bangalore, on the day of their opening match against their arch rivals and neighbours.

The 24-year-old admits the travel chaos endured was far from ideal, but the players had to remain professional.

He added: “When it comes to Pakistan and India, things are never straight forward.

"I can’t comment too much on it as I don’t know exactly why it took so long. It was all being dealt with behind the scenes. The players can only control what happens on the pitch. It wasn’t ideal but you have to deal with the situation you find yourself in.

“I was impressed with India. They are a good team and I’m not surprised at the success they are having. Their national league is high profile and competitive and that helps them when they get together at international level.”

Pakistan lost their opening fixture 4-0 with India’s legendary striker Sunil Chhetri scoring a hat-trick.

They were then defeated by Kuwait by the same scoreline. Their final game a dead rubber against Nepal ended in a 1-0 loss. India went onto lift the SAFF trophy for a record ninth time.

They also have the Asian Cup 2023 to look forward to. Sports and politics are intertwined on the Indian subcontinent and given the history between the two nations, Nabi and his teammates could be forgiven if they expected further complications. However the midfielder couldn’t be more praiseworthy of organisers and Indian supporters.

He stated: “From training facilities to the food and hotel, I have no complaints. We were looked after very well.

“There were over 20,000 inside the stadium for the India game but it wasn’t hostile, which caught us a bit by surprise. The fans were very hospitable. They treated us like one of their own.”

Despite having a population close to 250 million, Pakistani footballing authorities are actively pursuing diaspora players. The squad for the SAFF Cup contained a significant number from the UK and Denmark.

The British contingent consisted of former Aston Villa defender Eesah Suliman, Otis Khan (Grimsby Town) and former QPR youth player Harun Hamid.

Moreover Rahis reveals he is excited at the prospect of his older brother Adil – who currently plays his club football in Cyprus – joining him later in the year for the country’s World Cup qualifiers.

He continues: “The Pakistani Football Federation social media team were very active in India and since I came back, other players have been in touch to find out more about my experiences. I’ve told them that if Pakistan come calling, then they should go for it.

“Initially when we got to Lahore, where I have to say the training facilities were very good, [before travelling to Mauritius] you had a situation where the Pakistani players stuck to themselves, those from England had their own clique. Not all of us speak Urdu.

Some of them didn’t speak English but you have to overcome that. Once the ice had broken there was a strong camaraderie. You have one common aim and that’s to move football in Pakistan forward.

“The only thing I would say is just because you are going over there from Europe, don’t go with a superiority complex. It’s not a jolly. You have to work hard. There is a lot of talent there locally and they are very passionate.”

FIFA suspended Pakistan in April 2021 due to “undue third-party interference”.

The suspension was lifted 14 months later. They are currently ranked 201 out of 208 by the world football governing body, sandwiched between Liechtenstein and Turks and Caicos Islands.