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Youth teams to feature in National Challenge Cup

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KARACHI: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has opted to field national Under-19 and Under-16 teams in the National Challenge Cup starting here at the KPT Stadium in the second week of next month, a unique experience to prepare the young sides for the future in line with the fast-track programme. In the National Challenge Cup, the second popular tournament after the Premier League in the country, normally departmental teams take part.

Officials of few departments have also expressed their annoyance over fielding of national junior sides in the tournament, saying, it would cost them more in term of losing their players. “I will lose three Under-19 and around five U16 players following the PFF decision. We don’t give more chance to U16 players at senior level but losing Under-19 payers will harm us a lot during the National Challenge Cup,” an official of a departmental team told ‘The News’ on condition of anonymity. The basic purpose of the move is to keep both U16 and U19 teams in good shape under the PFF fast-track plan. And a PFF official told this correspondent that from now on, every year these junior teams would regularly be a part of the National Challenge Cup.

The U19 team will be the same which had featured in the last year’s AFC U19 Championship Qualifiers while Under-16 team would be that which lifted the SAFF U16 Cup title in Nepal by beating India in the final last year. Sajjad Mehmood will be the coach of U16 team while Shehzad Anwar will act as coach of the U19 team, the PFF official said. The U19 team is being prepared for the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers while work will be done on the U16 team so that after few years Pakistan could prepare a better side for the World Cup Qualifiers as the PFF has set in front of it a target that Pakistan would qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.