KARACHI: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is in no hurry to finalise their participation in a proposed tri-series involving arch-rivals India and Bangladesh in England in the month of June.
“We haven’t confirmed our participation yet,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn on Friday. “We’re still mulling their proposal and we’ll come to a decision by next week.”
Lodhi’s comments came in the day when the series organisers, Indian-based event management company Celebrity Management Group (CMG) said they had received confirmations from all three federations.
“I can confirm that we have received confirmations from all the three federations, PFF included, for the proposed series,” CMG’s executive director Bhaswar Goswami told Dawn via an e-mail.
Despite that, the PFF hierarchy is claiming that they have not yet given a green signal to the organisers.
The reason for playing it safe?
“The organisers are probably creating hype by announcing confirmations for the series,” said a PFF insider.
“There was similar hype created in 2011 when another company was organising a series between India and Pakistan in England but in the end it fizzled out.
“This is why we won’t confirm participation until the foundations for the series have been laid.”
The organisers back then were UK-based company TouchSky Sports (TSS) who cancelled the series citing lack of sponsorship and funds.
On that occasion, the tour was cancelled hours before Pakistan were set to leave for London. Pakistan had even named England-based midfielder Adnan Farooq Ahmed as the national team skipper.
“We were about to fly off to London and the night before, the organisers pulled a plug on the series,” recalls Tariq Lutfi who was then Pakistan’s head coach.
“We were really pumped up, had a month-long training camp and everyone was excited about it but when it was cancelled, it brought a very bad name. Maybe that is why the PFF is adopting a cautious approach.”
The current series sees Pakistan playing two matches — against India on June 4 and against Bangladesh three days later. Bangladesh and India are set to clash on June 1.
“There are a huge amount of Indians and Pakistanis residing in London,” says Goswami. “The match between India and Pakistan will be played in London so that those people get familiar with their football teams.”
The CMG enjoys a solid relationship with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) with whom it is planning an IPL-style football league in India despite having failed to launch a league on similar lines two years ago.
The event management company is also trying to arrange a couple more friendly matches for India — probably against Hungary or Austria — on the proposed tour.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, have also been beneficiaries of CMG’s plan of bringing international football to the Indian sub-continent, most notably when Lionel Messi and the Argentine national team came to the region for two friendly matches in 2011.
The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) president Kazi Salahuaddin confirmed their participation in the tournament earlier this week.
“CMG, which organised the FIFA friendly between Argentina and Nigeria in Bangladesh, invited us to participate in two friendlies against Pakistan and India in England,” Salahuddin told Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star on Monday.
“The BFF has given its nod to play in the friendlies after CMG said they they would provide transport, food and accommodation.”