Print Edition – The News
KARACHI: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-16 Championship Qualifiers of Group E have been shifted from the People’s Sports Complex, Karachi, due to fragile security situation in the port city, a highly informed source told Alam Zeb Safi of ‘The News’ on condition of anonymity.
However, the source did not confirm where the qualifiers would now be held.
“It is not yet confirmed whether the qualifiers would now be held in Lahore or Kuala Lumpur. But it is confirmed that the event will not be held in Karachi,” the source claimed.
A top official of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) had told this correspondent earlier that they were still waiting for the security clearance in writing from the Sindh government.
“You know there are certain requirements of the AFC for staging such events and security clearance is one of the most important of them. If Sindh government gives us a security assurance in writing then we will share it with the AFC but they have not given us any response so far. In a couple of days or in a week we will have to take a final decision,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi said.
The PFF kept Lahore as an alternative venue but there too the provincial government does not seem interested in helping the federation. “We also wrote to the Punjab Chief Minister but he did not respond. However, the provincial government showed some interest after we appealed to the Prime Minister. But you know it is the matter of the prestige of the country and we need some solid support from the government to make the qualifiers possible in Pakistan,” Lodhi said.
The bomb blast in Lyari after a football tournament final in the last week of Ramadan created doubts about security of the area where the competitions were going to be held.
Around a dozen young football fans were killed in that blast and scores of others were injured.
In the qualifiers, which will be held from September 25 to 29, Pakistan, Iran, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Sri Lanka will be vying for the top slot which will ensure their place in the next year’s championship proper.
Pakistan team under coach Sajjad Mehmood has already started preparation for the qualifiers.
According to AFC rules, when no one is ready to host the event, the continental football governing body holds it in Kuala Lumpur where it is headquartered.