AFC match commissioner visits Jinnah Stadium ahead of FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier

The home match against Cambodia will be played on October 17

September 20, 2023
Kemel Tokabaev is inspecting Jinnah Stadium along with PFF and PSB officials. — Author

KARACHI: The Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Match Commissioner Kemel Tokabaev visited the Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad on Wednesday ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier against Cambodia.

The member of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee Mohammad Shahid Niyaz accompanied Tokabaev along with some officials from the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).

Tokabaev, who is from Kyrgyzstan, inspected the stadium thoroughly to see if it meets FIFA's requirements to host an international match.

The commissioner also watched the ongoing renovation work at the stadium.

According to sources, Tokabaev raised objections on a few things.

He wants the concerned authorities to improve the quality of the pitch — which is hard as of now — and goalposts.

The sources also revealed that some of the rooms do not even have a shower.

The PSB ensured the match commissioner that everything would be ready before October 10.

The final decision on the stadium will be made by FIFA and AFC in the next few days.

Pakistan is scheduled to play its home game against Cambodia on October 17 after playing an away contest against them on October 12.

Jinnah Stadium last hosted a major event in 2014 which was the SAFF Women's Championship.

It must be noted that if Islamabad’s Jinnah Stadium is approved by the AFC to host the game, then it will be Pakistan’s first international assignment at home since 2015 when Pakistan played a friendly against Afghanistan in Lahore.

This will also be Pakistan’s first FIFA qualifier game at its own home ground since 2011. The game against Yemen in 2015 was moved to Bahrain after a bomb blast in Lahore while the 2019 game against Cambodia was moved to Qatar due to PFF political chaos.

Pakistan had last played a FIFA World Cup qualifier at home in 2011 against Bangladesh.

Faizan Lakhani is Deputy Editor (Sports) at Geo News.