Pakistan officials denied visas for SAFF congress ahead of SAFF Championship
The meeting witnessed AIFF Secretary General Shaji Prabhakaran being elected as an AFC Executive Committee member.
The delegates of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) participants took part in a congressional meeting on Saturday.
Among the major decisions taken, it included that of plans to introduce a new SAFF Club Championship, where the top teams from the member nations will take part in an AFC Cup inspired format.
However, there was some controversy that brew during the meeting. Members from countries like India, Bangladesh and Nepal were all physically present in the meeting. However, the officials from the Pakistan Football Federation could only attend the meeting virtually.
Pakistan officials couldn’t make it to SAFF Congress in Dhaka
Shahid Khokar and Saud Hashmi, members of the PFF Normalisation Committee couldn’t make the meeting because they were denied the visas to travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh for the occasion. This was particularly strange as no other members from the participating nations were met with this trouble.
In a statement to Pakistan outlet Dawn, Khokar said: “It is hurting the beautiful game. Football brotherhood and development of the game must not suffer due to such hurdles.
“I would not reiterate the importance of the subject matter in the context of people to people contact and relationships, but as a football promoter I must say that it is not in the favour of the spirit of the game.”
It was also added by him that there is major potential for growth in the SAFF region in the AFC and that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh authorities have to work together. Moreover, it was also stated by Khokar that if these issues like the denial of visas to SAFF members are continued going forward, then it might be necessary to move these events to neutral venues.
Pakistan set to participate in SAFF Championship
The SAFF Championship will be held in Bengaluru this year, taking place from June 21 to July 4. Defending champions India have automatically been placed in Group A of this tournament as the hosts. The format will include two groups of four teams being created, with the two best teams from each group moving forward to the semi-final.
The final will be held at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru. Pakistan are one of the teams set to participate in this competition due to their involvement and place in the SAFF set-up. It’s also been announced that Kuwait will take part in this tournament for the first time ever as an invitee nation.
The SAFF are working hard to find the eighth nation to finalize the two groups. It has been announced that the SAFF Executive Committee will wait until May 15 to decide the final team for this competition, with Malaysia and Saudi Arabia also reportedly given invitations to take part in it. The last time the SAFF Championship took place in India was in 2015, with the Blue Tigers reigning supreme with a win over Afghanistan in the final.
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