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Grassroots players in Tajikistan will be playing on four new, state-of-the-art mini-pitches funded under the AFC President’s Initiatives for football development in Asia.

The pitches, two of them built in Kurgan-Tube, a city in the south west, and two in Dangara, a town in the Khatlon Province in the western part of the country, were inaugurated on Thursday. The President of the Tajikistan Football Federation (TFF), Emomali Rustam, took part in the opening, together with the First Vice-President of the FFT Hurshed Fayzullozoda and Akhtam Abdullozoda, Minister of Sports and Tourism of Tajikistan.

Speaking at the ceremony, TFF President Rustam Emomali said: “I would like to thank the AFC for the fruitful cooperation in the development of the Tajik football and for these artificial mini-pitches.

“The pitches will give a huge boost to the development of football in the region where we have talented young players who will benefit a lot from the new facilities.”

AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “I am delighted that the AFC can concretely support grassroots and community football through the AFC Mini-Pitch Scheme. Proper facilities and access to them is a challenge in many Member Associations and these pitches will bring the joy of football to children and adults across Asia.”

The mini-pitches will also boost girls’ and women’s football in the region, providing an incentive to play. Fittingly, the first match played on a pitch in Dangara was played by local girls’ teams.

Construction of the pitches began in April. The surface is durable artificial turf and the facilities are equipped with lighting masts, allowing for training and matches in the evenings, as well as all-year-round use.

The AFC President’s Initiatives is a development programme for football across Asia which was launched in June 2014. The mini-pitch scheme funded under the programme has seen mini-pitches built in Afghanistan, Bhutan DPR Korea, Guam, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.