Pakistan offered to shift World Cup qualifier to Jordan [Express Tribune]

Pakistan offered to shift World Cup qualifier to Jordan [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: The fate of the 2026 World Cup qualification round-two match between Pakistan and Jordan hangs in the balance as the venue remains unfinalised.

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee (NC) has confirmed that the Jordan Football Association have offered to host the match.

Conversely, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) guidelines require the home match to either be held at home or the Football Association must arrange for a neutral venue.

Pakistan is scheduled to play the home game on March 21 and then away in Jordan on March 27.

Jordan will be coming into the qualifier after their stunning success at the Asian Cup where they reached the final for the first time.

The third deadline extension given by AFC ended on February 9 to finalise the venue in Islamabad has passed as well.

“We are still trying to secure another extension to confirm the venue,” The PFF NC media person told The Express Tribune. “But we haven’t received it yet. Also Jordan Football Association has offered to play our home game in Jordan, but this of course won’t be seen as a neutral venue, as per the AFC’s guidelines.”

Pakistan hosted their first-round World Cup qualifier against Cambodia and then their second-round home match with Tajikistan in Islamabad’s Jinnah Stadium which falls under the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Sports Board run by the ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination.

This is the first time Pakistan is playing in the second round of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers, in October the team made history by winning the Fifa World Cup first-round match.

They defeated Cambodia 1-0 at home and played a goalless draw in an away game. In November, they played Saudi Arabia next, losing 4-0 in an away match, and hosted Tajikistan in Islamabad where they were crushed 6-1 in Group G.

Despite the on-pitch progress, the inexperience shows in the PFF NC administration and foresight.
The lack of professionalism has also been at the forefront lately.

The Jinnah Stadium lacks floodlights while the PSB promised upgradation in time for the March World Cup qualifiers.

It is mandatory to submit venue details to the AFC 60 days before the match day. So far, the PSB is upholding their word that the floodlights will be installed before the match day.

The PSB has yet to give further details on the matter. Meanwhile, PFF NC is seeking another extension.

“The PSB has assured us in every correspondence that they will install the lights, they haven’t denied the request in any communication, but they also haven’t given us any date for when it will be done. So of course we are seeking another extension,” said the PFF NC media Manager Yashal Mazhar who had been updating The Express Tribune at the behest of NC member Shahid Khokhar.

The last correspondence sent to the PSB was on February 1, where the NC reiterated that the ground must be ready by February 1, and the report must be sent to Fifa.

The PSB Assistant Director Waqar Ahmed wrote back, “The PSB is in the process of upgradation of Jinnah Stadium as per Fifa’s/AFC’s standards including light requirements which will be completed before the match, however, it is not feasible to provide completion report/ certificate that it will be ready on February 2, 2024, as the work is in progress.”

The original deadline for the venue report submission was January 21, 2024. Later deadline changed to February 2, and then till February 9.

Upon further inquiry about forfeiting the home advantage to Jordan, the PFF NC official added they are waiting for the AFC’s response and Jordan’s remarks for now before shaping any further plans to hold the fixture.

Published in The Express Tribune, 15 February 2024