FIFA tells Bangladesh to play in Pakistan

Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: World football governing body FIFA has turned down Bangladesh’s request to relocate the away leg of their World Cup qualifier against Pakistan from Lahore to Dhaka due to security reasons, Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) President Kazi Salahuddin said on Monday.

“During the FIFA congress in Zurich earlier this month, we requested them to allow us to play both legs in Dhaka. But they did not agree,” Kazi told reporters in Dhaka.

“Expense was one of our issues. Also we were concerned as our coach was reluctant to travel to Pakistan on security grounds,” the BFF chief said.

Bangladesh will play Pakistan in their away leg of the World Cup 2014 qualifiers in Lahore on July 3 while the first leg will be hosted by Dhaka on June 29.

There are reports that Bangladesh’s Croatian coach Robert Rubcic left Dhaka on June 2 and has not been in contact with his bosses since.

“His concern to travel to Pakistan may be one of the reasons that he does not want to return,” Salahuddin said.

Interestingly, the BFF has not shown any such reservations before the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).

“We met with the BFF chief in Zurich and also had words with him four days ago but he did not mention any such thing,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Monday.

“Most recently, the Malaysian team has played a game of the Olympic qualifiers in Lahore and before them Palestine had also played a match here during their two-match tour to Pakistan,” Lodhi said.

“We will give Bangladesh the kind of security which we had given to Malaysia. Punjab government had extended full support to the PFF during the match against Malaysia and again we have written to it for the provision of fool-proof security for the game against Bangladesh and we are confident that there would be no stone unturned in providing security to the foreign team.”

Bangladesh will arrive in Lahore on July 1 for their return-leg.

The distance between the hotel, where Bangladeshi team will be boarded after their arrival in Lahore, is just five kilometres away from the Punjab Stadium and security provision during their vehicular movement is also not a matter of concern.

Only last month, a 14-member judo team of Bangladesh featured in the South Asian Judo Championship in Islamabad.

Rubcic concerns, though, seem to be a little over-rated.

In spite of the volatile security environment, Austrian football coach George Kottan, now working as AFC Future Coaches Director, worked with the Pakistan team from February 2009 to February 2010 without facing any security problem. In October and November last year, former English footballer Graham Roberts, now serving as Nepal coach, also served Pakistan team for two months as a consultant during the team’s preparations for the Asian Games.

Michel van den Heuvel, Pakistan’s Dutch coach is working with the Pakistan hockey team quite freely.