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Football festival venue satisfies Whittle

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KARACHI: A top Asian Football Confederation (AFC) official has expressed satisfaction over the condition of the venue of the AFC Under-14 Festival of Football at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad.

AFC’s Director Youth Development and Grassroots John Whittle told ‘The News’ on Friday from Islamabad that he expected the arrangements to be completed well before the beginning of the festival, to be held at the Jinnah Stadium.

“Yes, I saw the venue which is a national stadium of Pakistan and it looked fairly good for the young footballers to gain some experience and exposure during the festival,” said Whittle, hailing from England.

“I also inspected the two hostels at the complex which are also clean and good to stay in. I have also been given good accommodation,” he said.

He also expressed his satisfaction over the condition of the pitches which will be used during the festival. “One is the pitch of the main venue while one is outside the venue and I found both of them good. Work is continuing with high pace and I hope that every arrangement will be completed before the start of the festival. I will again come by March 31 and will be here till the end of the festival,” said an energetic Whittle.

Seven countries — Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan — are featuring in the festival to be held from April 3-17.

“The basic purpose of the festival is to give exposure to the kids. It’s a festival and not a competition but very important for the young boys at this level to get some international exposure and gain confidence,” Whittle elaborated.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi told this correspondent that all the teams will be accommodated in the two hostels at the Pakistan Sports Complex. He said that tight security would be provided to the players.

An official of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) said that the PFF had approached the board for security arrangements for the event.

The board then asked the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination to request the Interior Division to provide foolproof security to the foreign teams during the festival.

The PSB official said that the pitch at the main venue was being given rest. He said that because of the approaching spring season he expected more grass on it, which would make it more suitable to play on.

He said the renovation work within the venue and at hostels was being done. He said everything was likely to be completed 15 days before the festival begins.

The PFF Director Development and Competition Pervez Saeed Mir said that the AFC License C Course will be held from April 1-15, while the festival will be conducted from April 9-15.

On the following two days, foreign nations will head towards their homes.

Pakistan has already started preparatory camp in Islamabad for the festival. Thirty-six players are in the camp and final 22 will be picked a few days before the event.

Pakistan coach Hasan Baloch said that 18 players out of 36 probables in the camp are those who last year participated in the AFC Under-13 festival in Iran.

Hasan said that this time the festival would be a tough one as strong teams from central Asia as well as Afghanistan are taking part in it.