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Afghan taekwondo squad likely to tour Pakistan in March

By Alam Zeb Safi
February 22, 2017

KARACHI: Afghanistan’s taekwondo squad is expected to tour Pakistan in the middle of March for a series of competitions against the hosts in Islamabad.

Pakistan Taekwondo Federation (PTF) wants its players to fine tune their skills for the Islamic Games.“The government has agreed and hopefully the NOC and other formalities will be done in time,” the PTF president Col Wasim told ‘The News’ in an interview. “I hope the tour of the Afghans will take place. We want to see them here in mid-March,” he added.

“Afghanistan is very strong in the game and their visit to Pakistan would help our players prepare well for the Islamic Games,” Wasim said.Rohullah Nikpai of Afghanistan created history when he won bronze medal in the flyweight category of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Islamic Games will be conducted in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku from May 12-22. Wasim said that the government would decide how many players would be sent to Baku. “Personally I feel eight male and eight female players should feature in the Islamic Games,” Wasim said.

Winning medal in the Islamic Games in taekwondo would be hard as the Islamic world has the strongest of nations in the discipline. “We will be fighting against the world champions in the Islamic Games. There will be Iran, who got bronze in Rio Olympics. Egypt, Afghanistan, Jordon, and Nigeria are some of the countries who have world class fighters,” the official said.

However, he said he was hopeful that Pakistani players would do their best in Baku. Pakistan will be fielding a contingent of at least 200 members in 14 disciplines. This will be the second time when Pakistan will be taking part in the spectacle. Pakistan took part in the first edition in Makkah in 2005.

There was only a token participation in the 2013 Indonesia Islamic Games because of the conflict between Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and Pakistan Olympic Association (POA).

In 2010 Iran was supposed to host the second edition of the event but it was cancelled. Wasim said the PTF was waiting for the finalisation if its Korean coach. “Yes, it is in the process and will soon be finalised,” he added.

Meanwhile, a 30-memeber taekwondo contingent of Pakistan flew out of Islamabad and Karachi for Dubai on Tuesday to feature in the Fujaira Open to be held in the UAE from February 21-26. The 20-member squad is accompanied by 10 officials. Five of the officials are already attending a referee course in Dubai.

The US Open silver medallist Najia Khan, Arsalaan and three other players have been denied the UAE visas.

Fujaira Open is the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) G-2 event which is also called a rankings event in which around 50 nations from across the world are set to feature.

Moreover, Col Wasim is also set to contest the election for the council member of the WTF to be held in June.

The Fujaira Open 2017 is the best opportunity for the PTF official to work for his elections.

“Definitely, besides fielding the side in Fujaira Open I will be trying to meet people of other federations to ensure my council seat,” Wasim said.

If he is elected, this will be the first time that any individual gets elected as council member of the world body.

The WTF has 18 council members. AS many as 213 countries are affiliated with the WTF. Wasim said that America and Japan had already assured him of their support as nobody from them are contesting the elections.