by Faizan Lakhani
KARACHI: The Pakistan football team is set to participate in the SAFF U16 Championship after it received the No Objection Certificate (NOC) at the 11th hour.
The team will fly for Bhutan, via Doha, tonight in order to feature in the tournament.
Pakistan was set to miss the event, which begins on September 1, since it had not received the NOC till yesterday.
However, the Pakistan Sports Board issued the NOC on Wednesday after Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination confirmed that it had got the nod from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interior.
Former Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs, Shaza Fatima Khawaja, played a key role in ensuring that the team was given the NOC for the event.
Earlier, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee (NC) Chief Haroon Malik had stated that the team will be withdrawn from the event due to lack of NOC.
“We won’t participate in the event because we didn’t get the NOC,” Malik said on Tuesday. “It is extremely disappointing that we didn’t get the NOC on time.”
The Pakistan team was supposed to leave for Bhutan yesterday.
However, Malik was hopeful that the U19, U23 and national teams will get the NOC for the upcoming events in September.
When DG PSB Shoaib Khoso was approached on the matter, he said that the delay was due to incomplete documentation sent by the PFF.
He added that “PFF’s lawyer also admitted that the paperwork was incomplete”.
Despite the incomplete documentation, we processed the case but the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination raised objections on it.
It must be noted that the issuance of NOC is a recurring problem faced by the PFF since the same happened with the national men’s and women’s team in the recent past.
The SAFF U16 Championship will take place from September 1-10.
As per the announced schedule, Pakistan are set to kick off their campaign against the home side, Bhutan, on September 1 at Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu.
The Green Shirts will face the Maldives on September 3 at the same venue, with the top two teams qualifying for the semi-final stage.