AFC U23 Group B qualifiers may be delayed till May [The News]

AFC U23 Group B qualifiers may be delayed till May [The News]

KARACHI: It is likely that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship qualifiers of Group B, also carrying Pakistan, would be held in the first week of May, a well-placed source told ‘The News’ on Wednesday.

“Although I have not made any contact with the AFC, one of my friends has contacted them and they have told him that no country is ready to host the event after it was shifted from Pakistan and it may now get delayed till the first week of May,” the source said.

The qualifiers, which also serve as 2016 Rio Olympic qualifiers, were scheduled to be hosted by Lahore from March 23 to 31 but were postponed following suicide attacks on churches in the Youhanabad area of Lahore on March 15.

The incident had also forced FIFA to shift Pakistan’s World Cup qualifiers’ second leg against Yemen from Lahore to Bahrain where Yemen held the Green-shirts to a goalless draw to win the round with an aggregate score of 3-1 to make it to the 40-team second round. Pakistan had lost the first leg 3-1 in Doha on March 12.

But since no official word has been received from the AFC as yet about the Under-23 Group B qualifiers, Pakistan will begin their preparation for the event in Lahore from Thursday (today).

Jordon, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan are the other teams in Pakistan’s group.

Pakistan on Wednesday night arrived in Lahore after playing the second leg of the World Cup qualifiers against Yemen in Manama.

Coach Mohammad Shamlan stayed at his hometown in Bahrain as he is going to renew his Pakistani visa which is going to expire on April 1.

He is expected to arrive in Lahore in a couple of days to join the team.

However, in his absence his support staff will supervise the training sessions at Punjab Stadium.

A bunch of foreign-based players have already left to join their respective clubs because they are not eligible to feature in the Under-23 event because of age factor.

Only midfielder Saddam Hussain, who plays for Kyrgyzstan’s club Dordoi FC, is eligible among the professional players to represent Pakistan in the Under-23 qualifiers.