Pakistan gears up for South Asian women's tournament
The third edition of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF), featuring eight teams including Pakistan’s arch-rivals India and neighbour Afghanistan, will run in Islamabad from November 11-20, the first time a high-profile regional women’s event has been held in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) promised tight security for the teams, after a suicide attack at a border post with India last week killed nearly 60 people.
The blast at Wagah had raised doubts over the tournament but PFF secretary Ahmed Yar Lodhi said the event will go ahead.
“We have high level security in place and hope that the event will remove all doubts over our hosting a top event like this,” Lodhi told reporters.
Two time champions India are expected to arrive early on Tuesday while Afghanistan team arrived on Sunday.
The Afghanistan Football Federation said their team includes nine players from Iran, United States and Europe.
Afghanistan managed to draw one of their three games, losing the other two, in the inaugural event held in Bangladesh in 2010.
They reached the semi-final in the second edition held in Sri Lanka in 2012 but were thrashed 11-0 by champions India.
The 2014 event will see eight teams, with rivals India and Pakistan placed in Group A alongside Bangladesh and Nepal.
Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Maldives make up Group B.
Pakistan captain Hajra said her team will put up a decent fight.
“We know the competition is tough but we will do our best to win the championship,” Khan said.
Women’s sports were taboo in the conservative Islamic society in Pakistan but military ruler General Pervez Musharraf opened the way during his near decade-long tenure from 1999 to 2008.
The first women’s national championship was held in 2005 but players were required to follow a strict dress code, wearing trousers instead of the shorts normally worn by the players. -AFP