The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) is ready to host the qualifiers of the AFC U-19 Championship as five teams including two former champions will lock horns in Group A qualifiers from October 25 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Bangladesh have been placed with four-time champions Iraq, two-time champions Saudi Arabia, Oman and Maldives. The top two from each of the seven groups will qualify for the 16-team finals where the two best third finishers from East and West Zones will also join.
The football governing body has taken all necessary steps to make the qualifiers a success. All participating teams, except hosts Bangladesh, will stay at the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel while the officials of the tournament will reside at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel.
The Bangladesh U-19 team will stay at the BFF dormitory and BFF president Kazi Salahuddin at a press conference explained the reason behind keeping the boys at the dormitory. He said that for the boys felt comfortable and was habituated to stay at the dormitory and also that the BFF had taken it as a test case since the youth teams like Malaysia and Korea also stay their respective dormitories during tournaments on home soil.
The participating teams have given the BFF US$ 20,000 each for accommodation, transport and food while the AFC has given BFF US$ 25,000 for the expense of the AFC officials for the 10-day tournament. The BFF high-ups informed that they would need Taka one crore extra to complete the tournament.
Though the BFF will entertain the participating teams from Sunday, three teams out of the four have already arrived in the city in a bid to cope with the conditions.
Oman and Maldives reached the capital of Bangladesh yesterday while Saudi Arabia came Wednesday night, five days before the start of the tournament.
Iraq has yet to let the BFF know about their schedule till yesterday but the four-time champions are expected to arrive on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia, the semi-finalist of the last edition and champions in 1992 and 1985 editions, yesterday had a training session at the ground of Brothers Union, one of four practice venues and the boys of Saudi Arabia looked determined to qualify for the finals.
“We came here to qualify for the finals,” said coach Khaled Al Qurauni through the team doctor adding that they had played eleven practice matches two each against Iran, Bahrain, Lebanon and one each against Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, Jordan and UAE before coming to Bangladesh.
Despite having four-time champions Iraq in the same group, Qurauni was a bid of worried over hosts Bangladesh and unknown quantity Maldives.
“We know about Iraq and Oman as we played against them, but we have no idea about hosts Bangladesh, who will be playing in their home conditions,” said Qurauni adding that the weather would not affect the performance as the players are expected to adjusted with the weather before the start of the tournament .
Bangladesh qualified for the finals twice in 1994 and 1996 and they were eliminated from the qualifying stage from the last edition where they were beaten by Korea, Thailand and Vietnam before beating Macau 3-2 and playing a 3-3 draw against Laos.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh U-19 team recorded a 4-1 win over the national team in a practice match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium with Anik striking twice and Rana and Malek netting one goal each for the junior side.