Fate of this year’s SAFF Championship to be decided in July

Updated June 24, 2020

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In this file photo Pakistan’s Mohammad Ali (R) and Mahmood Khan vie for the ball with Bangladesh players during their SAFF Cup Group ‘A’ match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.—Courtesy SAFF
In this file photo Pakistan’s Mohammad Ali (R) and Mahmood Khan vie for the ball with Bangladesh players during their SAFF Cup Group ‘A’ match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.—Courtesy SAFF

KARACHI: The fate of the latest edition of South Asia’s premier football tournament will be decided next month.

South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) secretary general Anwaul Haque Helal told Dawn on Tuesday that it was going to hold a meeting with the general secretaries of its member associations to decide on holding of the SAFF Championship, scheduled for September this year.

“We will be holding an online meeting with the general secretaries of our member associations discuss this matter in the first week of July,” Helal said when asked if the tournament will be held on its scheduled dates of Sept19-30 amid rising coronavirus cases in South Asia.

Governments across South Asia have halted all sporting activities and it seems highly uncertain that this year’s SAFF Championship will be played.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the continent’s football governing body, has asked its member associations to “place the health and safety of players, officials and fans at the top of its agenda” while resuming football.

The AFC has announced new dates for the postponed matches in the second round of joint-qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

Apart from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, the other four SAFF members — India, Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal — are all slated to play matches on two dates each in October and November and it means there will be little space in a tight post-Covid match calendar to accommodate the SAFF Championship.

However, the fact that most of the SAFF members have ended their domestic leagues while some like Pakistan couldn’t even begin might see space open up for the SAFF Championship if the virus outbreak eases.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2020