New Delhi: Pakistan has pulled out of the South Asian Football Federation Championships (SAFF) to be held in Thiruvananthapuram from December 23 to January 3, though officials said that the development was not related to any security concerns of their players playing in India.
All India Football Federation General Secretary Kushal Das confirmed that Pakistan has withdrawn from the Championships without giving any reason.
"We have been informed that Pakistan has pulled out of the SAFF Championships. They did not give any reason for the withdrawal," Das told PTI today.
Pakistan did not participate in any regional football tournaments in recent times, including the inaugural SAFF U-16 Championship in Sylhet, the SAFF U-19 Championship in Nepal, and the AFC U-21 Championship in Dhaka this year, thanks to a High Court ruling regarding a disputed election of the PFF.
Media reports in Pakistan said that all the activities of the football federation have remained postponed due to the court order.
Asked if Pakistan's action was related to any security concerns regarding their players playing in India, Das said, "As far I can understand it's due to some internal issues within the football establishment in Pakistan. It's not related to any security issues."
The cricket board of Pakistan has recently threatened not to send its team to next year's World T20 to be held in India early next year after their Indian counterpart refused to play a bilateral series in UAE, the adopted 'home' of their national cricket team.
Das said that the SAFF Championships will be held as scheduled and matches involving Pakistan will be awarded as walkover in the opposition team's favour.
In the original schedule, India and Pakistan were clubbed in Group A along with Nepal and Sri Lanka. Group B included Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and defending champions Afghanistan.
"There will be no change in the schedule of the tournament and it will begin from December 23. India will get a walkover against Pakistan," Das said.
India have won the tournament six times in the 10 editions so far and they ended as runners-up thrice. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Afghanistan have won once each.
India lost to Afghanistan 0-2 in the final of the last edition in Nepal.