KARACHI: Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Wednesday clarified that there was no alteration on cards in the dates of the 2016 AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers Group B.
“There are no changes to what the AFC has previously announced. The competitions will be played in the UAE as announced earlier. The dates are 16 to 24 May 2015 and the matches will be played in Al-Ain,” AFC spokesman confirmed it to ‘The News’.
“The kick-off times are currently being finalised and they will be sent out to all participating teams soon,” the official said.
The event will be held at Al Qattara Stadium, Al-Ain.
Last week, a source close to the AFC, had told ‘The News’ that the qualifiers might be delayed because Kuwait had written to the AFC that they would not be able to feature in the competitions if these were held during the already announced time-frame (May 16 to 24) because of the examinations of schools and colleges in their country.
The source had also said that Jordon wanted to host the event if dates were changed.
However, sources said that the AFC might have been compelled to stick to their original schedule of the complications as it was not possible for them to reschedule the slots because of reservations from majority of the participating nations.
In the qualifiers, besides Kuwait, Pakistan, Jordon, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan will be featuring.
The qualifiers were earlier scheduled to be held in Lahore from March 23 to 31 but were shifted to UAE following suicide attacks on churches at the Youhannabad area of Lahore.
The incident had also forced FIFA to shift the World Cup qualifiers tie between Pakistan and Yemen to Manama, Bahrain.
Pakistan will start their Under-23 Championship qualifiers journey with the game against Turkmenistan on May 16. This will be followed by their match against Jordon on May 18, Kuwait on May 20 and Kyrgyzstan on May 24.
The competitions of other groups have already been completed.
Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Syria, Australia, DPR Korea, Korea Republic, Japan and China have made it to next year’s 16-team tournament, which is to be hosted by Qatar. Besides the group winners, five best second-placed sides will also make it to the tournament proper.
After having faced a first round exit in the World Cup qualifiers, the Under-23 event will be a testing time for the Pakistan team which has made good preparation. This might be the last event for Mohammad Shamlan as Pakistan’s coach as he has decided to quit upon expiration of his two-year contract on July 30.
Shamlan told ‘The News’ that his team would kick-start their preparation soon after receiving official words from the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) about the confirmation of the qualifiers.
The 2016 AFC Under-23 Championship also serves as qualifiers for the 2016 Rio Olympics, with the top three teams qualifying.