Pakistan continue return to international play with hosting of 2020 SAFF Championship

Pakistan fans

April 13 – The South Asian Football Federation approved Pakistan as the host of the SAFF Championship in 2020 on Thursday following a meeting in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. The award of the hosting is a big boost for Pakistani football that has only just returned to international competition following a FIFA suspension. 

Syed Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat, the president of the Pakistani FA, the PFF, headed his country’s delegation to the SAFF Congress where football officials from Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka also in attendance.

Last month FIFA lifted the PFF’s suspension following the Lahore High Court ordering the handover of control of the PFF from a court-appointed administrator to the winners of the election held 20 June 2015. Those elections were hugely controversial and led Pakistani football into an unprecedented freefall.

The Hayat faction won in court, but given that Hayat’s term as president has expired much uncertainty remains. FIFA stated they’d send a mission to Pakistan to assess the situation.

But on Thursday Pakistani football was given a big boost as SAF awarded the hosting rights for the 2020 edition of its flagship tournament to Pakistan. The country last hosted the championship in 2005 when neighbours India defeated Bangladesh 2-0 in the final. Pakistan also hosted the inaugural SAFF Championship in 1993, but has never progressed beyond the semi-finals. The country is currently ranked 203rd on the FIFA ranking.

The SAFF congress also approved the staging of the SAFF U-15 men’s championship in 2019 and U-19 women’s Championship in 2021 in Pakistan.

Bangladesh’s Kazi Mohammad Salahuddin was elected for a third term as president of SAFF. He was elected unopposed.

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