KARACHI: As no Pakistan Premier Football League was held last season because of the conflict between two groups of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), no club from the country will be part of the 2017 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup playoff qualifiers which begins in August.
In the 2016 AFC Cup playoff qualifiers then Pakistan’s champions K-Electric had participated. They failed to reach the continent’s second-tier club competitions following their loss to Bahrain’s strong club Al-Hidd in the playoff on February 9 in Manama this year.
The AFC has unveiled draws for the playoff qualifiers. The nine teams have been drawn in three groups.
In Group A Guam’s Rovers FC, Kyrgyzstan’s Dordoi and Casa Benfica of Macau have been adjusted. Their matches will begin on August 19 in Kyrgyzstan.
The Group B has Mongolia’s Erchim FC, Nagaworld FC of Cambodia and Nepal’s Three Star Club. Their contests will begin in Mongolia from August 21.
Bhutan’s Tertons FC, Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra Limited of Bangladesh and Tatung FC of Chinese Taipei form Group C whose competitions will begin from August 21 in Bhutan.
After a single league engagement the group winners will advance to the playoff stage.
Pakistan have not featured in any international event since April 2015 owing to the football dispute.
The country not only missed the SAFF Cup and South Asian Games in India but the junior teams also failed to feature in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) age-group competitions.
“It’s pathetic that we missed such important events,” a senior footballer told ‘The News’ on Thursday. “It is because of non-participation in international football activities that our world ranking has dropped to 192. And we will become the world’s lowest-ranked side if the dispute is not resolved immediately,” the player said.
“Our players had started signing contracts with foreign professional clubs but the progress was hampered as our players did not play in international circuit,” the player pointed out.
A former Pakistan coach said he foresaw sanctions by FIFA. “It would add to the misery of our footballers,” the coach said.
Pakistan’s star footballer Kaleemullah and gloveman Saqib Hanif are the only national footballers who are engaged in foreign leagues.
Chaman-born striker Kaleem is playing in the United States, while Saqib is engaged in the Maldives league.