FIFA Qualifiers: Setback for Football as Kabaddi takes center stage [The Nation]

FIFA Qualifiers: Setback for Football as Kabaddi takes center stage [The Nation]

by Azhar Khan

Pakistan is eagerly preparing to host Jordan in the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifier Round 2 on March 21 at Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad. However, despite the diligent efforts of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), a potential setback looms large. 

The stadium, a pivotal venue under the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) domain, is currently slated for a kabaddi match, posing a serious risk to the integrity of the pitch. The absence of a dedicated football stadium in Pakistan is a longstanding issue, casting a shadow over the nation’s football ambitions. 

Nevertheless, the PFF has persistently pursued avenues to facilitate matches. Recent years have witnessed a remarkable surge in match activity, marking a notable departure from historical trends. 

Pakistan has successfully hosted matches against Cambodia in October and Tajikistan in November 2023 at Jinnah Stadium, drawing substantial crowds of enthusiastic fans. This success was a testament to the collaborative efforts of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the PFF. 

However, critical challenges persist, particularly concerning the role of the PSB. Despite the PFF’s endeavors, the PSB has faltered in meeting essential requirements, such as the installation of lights and seating arrangements.

With the kabaddi match taking precedence over the FIFA World Cup Qualifier, concerns mount regarding the potential damage to the playing surface.

The situation underscores profound doubts regarding the PSB’s dedication to ensuring the successful hosting of the Pakistan-Jordan match. Their apparent negligence or lack of urgency in addressing these concerns not only undermines the strenuous efforts of the PFF but also tarnishes Pakistan’s reputation in organizing international football events.

Urgent remedial action is imperative to salvage the integrity of the upcoming qualifier and reaffirm Pakistan’s commitment to the global footballing community.

Published in The Nation, 1 March 2024