Can Pakistan prepare NT for World Cup qualifier in 2 weeks?

In Sports
March 28, 2024



KARACHI:

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee (NC) has not been able to confirm the dates of the national camp even though there are less than 15 days left for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier against the Asian Cup finalists Jordan.

The tie is scheduled to take place at Islamabad’s Jinnah Stadium on March 21 and so far the PFF NC has confirmed that they would like to retain the services of the British coach Stephen Constantine while there will be overseas players joining the camp, especially confirming the participation of Easah Sulaiman, apart from others.  

There was a meeting that took place virtually between the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the PFF NC on Wednesday, and the latter feels that there were concerns left unresolved by the former.  

“There were things that were left unexplained by the PSB,” the PFF NC spokesperson Yashal Mazhar told The Express Tribune. “Despite our anticipation for this important meeting, it didn’t unfold as expected. For example, we were repeatedly told that the floodlights and seats in one of the enclosures would be installed before the game, but that did not happen and there was no explanation given to us why that was the case. There had been no update on it. Except that now we are told that the floodlights will be available for the June match against Saudi Arabia.   

“Last time there was an attendance of more than 25,000 spectators at Jinnah Stadium and the only place that was empty was that enclosure.”  

Pakistan could have benefited from the match under floodlights especially because the matches, both home leg on March 21 and away leg 27 in Jordan, are taking place during the holy month of Ramadan, when people will be fasting during the day and only after sunset do most prefer to go out. For now, having a match during the daylight will likely affect attendance.  

Similarly, the date not being confirmed for the camp is also raising doubts about whether the team would be ready for the game in time or not.  

“We are going to hold the camp as soon as possible, most probably by next week. But the players are in touch with our technical staff and they will be notified when they should be travelling,” said the spokesperson.  

On Monday, the PFF NC spokesperson confirmed that Constantine will remain the head coach for the Jordan games and the PFF NC would like him to continue till June when Paksiatn plays Saudi Arabia.  

“The team shall remain the same as the last time, almost 70-80 percent, but we are also looking for more overseas talent, we have been in touch with them, but we cannot name them as we are waiting for FIFA clearance. But we can confirm that Sulaiman will join the team after recovering from injury,” said the PFF NC spokesperson.  

The PFF NC also denied the shortage of finances for holding the camp late.  

“No, we were trying to ascertain what venue would be better for the camp, should we set it in Lahore or in Islamabad where the match will take place, so there had been a delay. No there is no financial issue for the camp, things are planned and camp will commence at the earliest,” said the PFF NC.  

Adding that they are ‘ looking forward to a good performance from the team.’  

Earlier, the venue for this tie had been difficult to finalise as FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) needed a report on the upgrade of the Jinnah stadium which does not have floodlights and seats in one of the enclosures.  

Pakistan hosted the home leg of the first round against Cambodia (won 1-0) in October, which saw them win their first FIFA World Cup qualifier in history. Later played against Tajikistan (lost 6-1) on November 21 which was a second-round tie after playing an away match with Saudi Arabia (4-0).  

Since November 21 the PSB and the PFF NC exactly four months to upgrade the stadium. However, the clouds of uncertainty kept looming on the fate of hosting the home leg against Jordan.  

The PSB kept promising that floodlights and seats would be installed before the match on March 21, which never happened, and during the course of the official delay PFF NC took three extensions from the international bodies to approve the venue.  
 

Pakistan does not have an international standard football stadium despite its love and ambition for the sport.  

What seemed like an impossible task to host a World Cup qualifier in October was managed with the help of the government, which had to help PFF NC to hold the home leg against Cambodia, however, not much progress has been made since.  

With just 15 days to the match, the health of the Jinnah Stadium pitch is also in shambles, where PSB is hosting the National Kabaddi Championship.  

The pitch was already not at par with the international standards prior to the Kabaddi event.  

“We were told that the PSB will work on it after the Kabaddi event, but the pitch is our concern as well,” said the PFF NC spokesperson. “In the meeting on Wednesday, we never found out who allowed the

Kabaddi event to take place at the pitch just a few weeks before the World Cup qualifier. We have not gotten any answers.”  

The PSB officials were not available to comment despite attempts made by The Express Tribune.  

 

 

 

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