The fate of September’s Bangabandhu SAFF Championship in Bangladesh will be decided today as the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) is scheduled to meet virtually with the general secretaries of seven member associations this afternoon.
“We are scheduled to sit with the general secretaries of all seven federations [Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan] today [Monday] to discuss this year’s SAFF calendar. Then we will discuss outcomes of the meeting with the SAFF president, vice presidents and a few other members to deliver the final decision in the first week of July,” SAFF general secretary Anwarul Haque Helal told The Daily Star yesterday.
“We will mainly discuss whether the tournaments in the calendar can be implemented or deferred due to the pandemic because all seven members will take part in those competitions, depending on their respective situations, taking the situation into consideration as we [SAFF] can’t impose anything,” said Helal.
Helal also said the SAFF secretariat had previously sent the agenda of today’s meeting to respective federations and hoped that the general secretaries will convey the opinions generated through the high-ups of their respective federations.
Bangabandhu SAFF Championship is scheduled to take place in Bangladesh from September 23 to mark the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman but the coronavirus pandemic has forced the government to cancel most international tournaments organised to commemorate the birth centenary, as well as postpone domestic sports activities since March.
“I think we won’t be able to hold the SAFF Championship in September, but we first want to hear from other nations in the meeting and then give our opinions,” BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag told The Daily Star yesterday. “If everyone agrees to defer the championship, then we will propose holding the Bangabandhu SAFF Championship next February or March and try to hold it within the Mujib Barsho, Bangabandhu’s birthday.”
SAFF secretary Helal added: “If SAFF Championship is deferred by a few months, we won’t be able to hold it this year because there are FIFA windows in October and November. Besides, AFC also has AFC Cup fixtures in late October,”
SAFF is scheduled to hold the U-15 Boys’ SAFF Championship in August, U-15 Girls’ SAFF Championship in September and U-19 Women’s SAFF Championship in October.
“We have already had a meeting with FIFA and let them know that we are doubtful of staging the tournaments as per the calendar because the situation in South Asia is not good. FIFA had a meeting with all regional associations across the world because they are funding youth football tournaments.
“If the situation improves within the next two or three months, we can consider staging a couple of the youth tournaments in December, but it depends on each country’s federation because the situation in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan is worsening compared to other South Asian nations,” said Helal.