Early start to WCup qualifying for weaker Asian soccer sides

Pakistan to face Mongolia to qualify for FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022 & Asian Cup 2023 (Photo Courtesy: AFP)
Updated 07 June 2019

Early start to WCup qualifying for weaker Asian soccer sides

  • 12 weakest teams in Asia took an early start this weak to qualify for the big games
  • Pakistan is currently ranked 200th in the FIFA World Rankings

Phenom Penh: Asian soccer lesser-lights such as Mongolia and Pakistan are just 90 minutes away from a rare taste of the big time that could even include a match against the continent’s most famous player, Son Heung-min.
Less than 12 months after the 2018 World Cup final, the 12 weakest teams in Asia this week took the first step along the road to the 2022 tournament to be held in Qatar. The six that emerge as winners after next Tuesday’s second legs will progress to the group stage and potential match-ups with powerhouses such as Son’s South Korea, Japan and Australia.
The prospect of Son, Asia’s biggest name who last week appeared in the UEFA Champions League final with Tottenham Hotspur (a 2-0 loss to Liverpool), taking the field against Pakistan appeals very much to captain Zesh Rehman.
The British-born defender has past experience of facing the best attackers in the league during a spell in the English Premier League with Fulham, but a 2-0 loss to Cambodia on Thursday in Phnom Penh means that there is much to do in the return game for Pakistan.
“It would be huge for the whole country and it would be a significant achievement considering the lack of international exposure in recent years,” Rehman told The Associated Press.
Just to get the sport in the headlines for the right reasons would be a step forward in a country with a soccer scene that has been burdened by politics, corruption and incompetence for years.
So bad has it become that Pakistan, a country with a population of around 200 million, is ranked 200th in the world by FIFA, below teams such as Bhutan, Mongolia and Brunei.
“The ranking is too low,” Rehman admitted. “I believe however with this coaching staff, regular games and a mixture of local and foreign-based players that the ranking will no doubt improve.”
To take on South Korea and Son would be exciting but more important is the prospect of eight guaranteed group games in the next stage.
Pakistan needs as much soccer as possible. With qualification for the 2022 World Cup being combined with qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup, early elimination can be a major blow for teams and lead to long periods without competitive action.
“We have not has so many games In the last few years due to some political factors that are beyond the players control, so we just focus on the games as and when they are scheduled for us to play,” said Rehman.
Mongolia is also looking to give soccer a boost in a country where it is far from being the No. 1 sport, lagging behind volleyball, basketball, archery, wrestling and others. Preserving its 2-0 advantage from the first leg in Brunei is vital.
“The biggest challenge is to make football really popular,” Hatem Souissi, the technical director of the Mongolian federation, told the Asian Football Confederation. “If we can qualify for the next round then we will try to bring top teams so that the crowd can come and see them.
“We need to make the sport popular and bring big names. And we will find that hard if we don’t qualify for the next round.”


EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

Updated 01 July 2020

EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

  • The step has been taken due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards
  • PIA expects the ‘earliest possible’ lifting of suspension after action by the government and the airline

ISLAMABAD: The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorization to fly to the bloc for six months, the airline said on Tuesday, in a major blow to the country’s flag carrier.
Separately, the safety agency said it took the action due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
The suspension follows Pakistan’s grounding of 262 of the country’s 860 pilots — including 141 of PIA’s 434 — whose licenses the aviation minister termed “dubious.”
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” PIA said in a statement. It added it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe.
Confirming the move in an emailed statement, the EASA referred to a recent investigation by Pakistan which it said showed a “large share” of pilot licenses to be invalid.
Pakistan’s grounding of the pilots followed a preliminary report on a PIA crash in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.
PIA said it is in contact with the EASA to take corrective measures and appeal against the decision, adding that it expected the “earliest possible” lifting of the suspension after action by the government and the airline.
The EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.
Vision Air International did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Following the EASA’s decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said it, too, was withdrawing PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports, as required under law.
“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority told Reuters.
The three were major flying destinations for the airline.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), say there are discrepancies in the government’s list of pilots with licenses deemed dubious and are demanding a judicial investigation.
PIA and private airline Air Blue have also queried the list with PIA saying 36 of its pilots mentioned had either retired or left the airline, while Air Blue said it no longer employed seven of nine pilots on the list.
“It contains names of highly educated and qualified pilots who have passed all the tests,” PALPA’s president, Chaudhry Salman, told Reuters. “We want a fair and impartial resolution to this matter.”
An official at Pakistan’s aviation ministry, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, said they did not have full details of the discrepancies. “The issue is being sorted out in consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities.”