LAHORE: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) President Makhdoom Saleh Hayat has said that he was confident about hosting the qualifying matches for the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) under-16 championship despite a bomb attack that killed eight young football fans in Karachi last week.
“The AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has been kind enough to give us the go-ahead and I am sure the successful staging of the qualifiers will open doors for more sporting events in the country,” Hayat told media.
PFF staged AFC’s President’s Cup in 2011 and has also hosted events for specific age groups with foreign participation over the past three years.
Group E qualifiers involving United Arab Emirates, Iran, Sri Lanka and Pakistan will be played in Karachi from October 25-29 this year.
The top ten teams and five runners-up from the qualifying rounds will feature in the AFC Under-16 championships in Thailand next year.
After the attack in Karachi, Lahore had been chosen as the qualifiers’ venue, Hayat said.
“Unfortunately we had an incident after the football match in Karachi earlier this month. We still wanted to host the event in Lyari, but have chosen Lahore as an alternate,” said Hayat, who also is Pakistan’s former interior minister.
Football has the capacity to build a positive image of Pakistan, he said.
“We feel that football is loved in Pakistan and as our commitment to lift football, we want to use the sport as a tool to lift our country’s image world-wide.”
Pakistan has been a “no go” area for foreign teams since ever since terrorism and militancy plagued the country.
Terrorist attacks on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009 washed away all hopes of Pakistan staging any cricketing or international sporting event in times to come.
Eight people were killed in a bomb blast last week after a football match in the Karachi’s Lyari slum, an area where football is very popular.