AFC U14 Festival: Uncertainty surrounds teams’ participation


KARACHI: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-14 Football Festival seems to have experienced a heavy jolt as some of the central Asian countries have not been able to confirm their arrival in Pakistan, which is going to host the event from April 11-15 at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad.

‘The News’ learnt through well-placed sources that the participation of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan has not yet been confirmed. “Due to security or financial reasons they might have opted to skip the festival,” a source in the organising committee said.

Meanwhile, an official of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) told this correspondent that the participation of these countries is in doubt. But he was quick to add that April 9 is the arrival date for the foreign teams and they would have to wait for them till that day. However, he made it clear that Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan have confirmed their arrival. It means that now the event may be limited to only four teams, including the hosts Pakistan.

When ‘The News’ asked the AFC Director Youth Development and Grassroots John Whittle about the matter he refused to make any comment. “I cannot comment on it. It’s better to ask the local organising committee,” Whittle, who belongs to England, said.

Foreign teams will be given lodgings at freshly renovated hostels of the Pakistan Sports Complex.

A source said that Afghanistan team has already arrived in Pakistan. After reaching Islamabad, they were told by the local organising committee that they will be given accommodation from April 9, the arrival date for the foreign teams. Then they decided against staying in the federal capital and went to Peshawar where they are staying at a house of some relatives, a source in the District Football Association (DFA) Peshawar said.

When this correspondent contacted a top official of the Afghanistan Football Federation, he said that their team would be in Pakistan on April 9. “As April 9 is the arrival day for the foreign teams, Afghanistan will also be in Pakistan by the said date,” the official said from Afghanistan.

Sources said that almost all foreign coaches except that of Afghanistan have decided against attending the AFC License C Coaching Course which started on April 2 in the federal capital. “Only Mohammad Nadir from Afghanistan is attending the course which is also being attended by a bunch of Pakistanis,” a source said.

AFC Referees course will also begin from April 6, and on April 7-8 a seminar of the head coaches of the countries featuring in the festival will be held. The actual event will be conducted from April 11-15.

Since the terrorists’ attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore in March 2009, foreign teams have been refusing to tour Pakistan.

But currently there is no such security issue which could be so threatening for the foreign nations. Last year, Bangladesh had appealed to the world football governing body (FIFA) that their second leg of the World Cup Qualifiers should be shifted from Lahore to any other country, but FIFA forced Bangladesh to visit Lahore. The team visited Lahore and played against Pakistan in a secure environment.

Palestine’s football team had also played one match each in Lahore and Karachi last year. Besides, the country also staged international boxing and handball events in Islamabad and Faisalabad last year peacefully and conducted an international snooker competition here in Karachi more recently. Pakistan are also going to host the AFC President’s Cup Group matches in Lahore in May.