Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has sought input from the participating nations of the 2016 AFC Under-23 Championship Qualifiers Group B regarding the dates of its conduction.
“Yes, AFC has asked us to choose from two options of April 16-28 and May 14-26 which suit us more,” a top official of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) told ‘The News’ on Saturday.
“We have been asked to send the reply by March 30 and we will respond soon,” added the official.
However, the official was quick to add that it had been mentioned in the email that the competitions would be held at a neutral venue.
“I think the slots will be held either in Malaysia or United Arab Emirates (UAE),” the official said.
The Group B competitions were earlier scheduled to be held at Lahore from March 23 to 31 but were shifted following suicide attacks on churches in the Youhannabad area of Lahore on March 15.
Jordon, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan are in Pakistan’s group.
The incident in Lahore had also forced FIFA to shift Pakistan’s home tie of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Yemen which was pencilled in for March 17 at Punjab Stadium Lahore.
The game was abandoned just hours before the kick-off and was later conducted in Manama, Bahrain, on March 23 in which Yemen held Pakistan to a goalless draw and ensured their berth in the second round. Pakistan team camp for the Under-23 competitions is in progress in Lahore. However, if AFC finalised the dates of May 14-26, then the camp could be disbanded as the authorities are going to hold the National Challenge Cup in Lahore from April 14.
As many as 27 players are in the camp being supervised by assistant coaches Hassan Baloch and Tanvir Ahmed.
Defender Mohsin Ali has been nursing a knee-injury.
“Mohsin’s MRI has been carried out and he has been advised a week-long rest and will be fit soon,” assistant coach Hassan Baloch told ‘The News’ on Saturday.
Gloveman Muzamil Hussain also injured his thumb of the right hand during the second-leg tie of the World Cup qualifiers against Yemen in Bahrain.
“He is also fast recovering,” Hassan said.
Muzammil was replaced by Saqib Hanif in the start of the second half in the clash against Yemen.
Pakistan coach Mohammad Shamlan is in Bahrain and is expected to arrive in Lahore soon.
“He is facing a problem in confirmation of his ticket,” Hassan said.
After the second-leg tie of the World Cup qualifiers, Shamlan opted to stay at his hometown in Bahrain to renew his visa for Pakistan.