PFF NC yet to contact govt for WC Qualifiers venue [The News]

PFF NC yet to contact govt for WC Qualifiers venue [The News]

by Alam Zeb Safi

LAHORE: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee has not yet officially approached Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for taking Jinnah Stadium Islamabad for the home leg of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia.

The Qualifiers home leg will be held on October 17. The away leg between Pakistan and Cambodia will be held in Cambodia on October 12. “We have not officially been requested by NC about this,” PSB Director General Shoaib Khoso told ‘The News’ on Tuesday.

“Yes, there was a tweet and we had responded to that when we will be officially requested we will provide them with the venue for the home leg against Cambodia,” Shoaib said.

“There is still time in the qualifier. As far as the pitch of Jinnah Stadium is concerned it’s perfect as we have grown fresh grass. The pavilion has also been renovated. There will be no issue to broadcasters, players and technical crew,” Shoaib said.

Meanwhile, according to sources, NC is also seeking for alternatives if it is unable to get a venue at home which fulfills FIFA’s requirements. Sources confirmed that NC has also written to Saudi Arabia, requesting them that they would like to use one of their venues for the home leg against Cambodia.

“But it does not mean that we are not going to hold the home leg in Pakistan. Our top priority is to host the home leg here as it will help the country’s football a lot. The people are eagerly waiting to see their national players showcasing their skills against Cambodia in the vital game at home,” a source privy to the development said.

When approached, NC’s chairman Haroon Malik said that they want to host Cambodia in Pakistan. “We want to host our home leg in Pakistan,” he told this correspondent. “We are talking to the government regarding venues. If they can provide one that meets FIFA and the AFC criteria then we will host it in Pakistan,” Haroon said.

“Hosting in Pakistan is our first option. In case it is not possible then we will have to explore other options,” he added. Haroon did not respond when this correspondent asked him besides Saudi Arabia which other countries they have contacted regarding hosting venue for the home leg.

Punjab Stadium, Lahore, is the other potential venue which NC is expected to go for as it hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers’ home leg against Bangladesh in 2011. NC has also not yet formally requested Sports Board Punjab (PSB) regarding taking Punjab Stadium for the showdown against Cambodia.

“Any such request from NC is not in my knowledge,” the SBP spokesman told this correspondent. “We never refuse any such request when it is for international purpose. When we receive NC’s request we will give them the venue,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman dispelled the impression that Punjab Stadium cannot host international matches. “Punjab Stadium has hosted several international matches. Here we have arranged matches in the era of former SBP DG Usman Anwar. We held here a football match against Palestine. More recently, rugby matches were arranged here so it’s not the first time,” the spokesman said.

“There are already changing rooms in the venue. There will be no issue for broadcasters, technical officials and players,” the spokesman said. “NC should file its request with our administration so that stage could be set for the purpose. The venue has new floodlights.

The venue is being upgraded as next year there will be matches of the South Asian Games and its preparation is in progress. Its seating area is being enhanced. We are also installing solar system,” the spokesman said. NC has to submit the venue with FIFA by August 18.

Published in The News, 9 August 2023