KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – The Asian Football Confederation has condemned an attack that killed and maimed fans at a match in Pakistan this week but confirmed that the country will still host qualifiers next month for a continental youth tournament.
AFC president Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa responded on Friday to a bombing at a low-key football event in Karachi on Wednesday which killed 11 people and wounded 24 in an attack apparently targeting a provincial government minister.
''It's shameful to attack those who are enjoying a football game,'' he said in a statement. ''Some of the innocent fans who lost their lives would have been budding footballers. Football has long given solace to people around the globe.''
He said the scheduled Group E qualifiers for the 2014 under-16 Asian Championship would proceed in Pakistan as part of an effort to cultivate the growing popularity of the game in a country where cricket is the dominant sport.
Pakistan has not hosted a cricket international since 2009 when gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka team bus on the way to a test match at Lahore, killing six police officials and a van driver. The under-16 football tournament is one of the few international sports events scheduled for Pakistan since then.
Youth teams from Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are set to play a round-robin at Karachi's Peoples Stadium from Sept. 25-29 for a spot in the 2014 Asian tournament.