Pak team to take part in FIFA U20 World Cup qualifiers via AFC U19 Championship

Lahore, 28 March : Pakistan will make attempt to earn slot in Turkey’s 19th FIFA U20 World Cup 2013 when they will face Asian teams for 37th AFC U19 Championship 2012. The players born on or after 1 January 1993 will be eligible to play in the qualification event, slated to run from 1-12 November 2011. North Korea will act as holders of Asian U19 event as they defeated Australia 3-2 on 17 October 2010 in Zibo, China, with Jong Il-Gwan completing hat-trick for winners.

Thirty-nine Asian nations have expressed their interest in taking part in the coming AFC U19 Championship qualifiers which was the brainchild of the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, former President of Asian Football Confederation (AFC), who saw it as an ideal vehicle for developing and promoting youth football in Asia. Out of these 39, eleven have also come forward to host the qualifying competition which are Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Nepal, Qatar, Syria, Thailand, Tajikistan and the UAE. The six teams withdrew are Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Timor Leste while Brunei are suspended by FIFA.

The AFC U19 show – which is held every two years – also acts as a qualifying tournament for the FIFA U20 World Cup at which the Asia is given four berths. It is the world championship for players under the age of 20 organized by FIFA. This competition, which was also known as the FIFA Coca-Cola Cup until 1997, features 24 teams in the final tournament. 23 countries, including the defending champions, have to qualify in the six confederations Youth Championships. The host country automatically qualifies. In the seventeen tournaments held so far, Argentina is the most successful team with six titles, followed by Brazil with four. Portugal lifted trophy twice, while Ghana, Germany, Spain, and formerly existing nations Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have once each.

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat has asked Operation Wing to call as many teams as they could from July’s 21st National U19 Championship to get the abundance of talented players of required age-limit for coming 37th AFC U19 Championship.

“The AFC U19 Championship was set up to provide another tier of competitive international football in Asia with the aim of developing young playing talent in the region. Pakistan comprise of fine footballers at grass-root level and players who represented U13, U14, U16, U17 teams from 2003 to 2009 will soon be part of teams. We put up fine display in the 2007 edition, drawing 0-0 with Bahrain and restricted Oman to 0-1 scoreline : the two Arabian nations whose national game is soccer, “said Faisal who added that Pakistan also got the honor of playing the 10-team Asian finals at Shiroudi Stadium, Tehran eleven years ago.

The participants of 37th AFC U19 Championship are DPR Korea, Australia, Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Uzbekistan, UAE, China, Bahrain, Syria, Iran, Vietnam, Thailand, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Palestine, India, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Singapore, Kuwait, Nepal, Macau, Guam, Laos, Afghanistan, Chinese Taipei, Bhutan, Lebanon, Maldives, Turkmenistan.