KARACHI: The issue has been rife on social media; Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee posting videos in which national team players are appealing to the government to issue No-Objection Certificates which will allow them to travel to Mauritius, for a four-nation tournament, and then India, for the SAFF Championship.

It puts into sharp focus what the FIFA-appointed PFF NC is doing and raised questions over why it has come down to this. At a time when players should be focusing on their training drills for the tournaments ahead, they’re being asked to record messages.

That too when, as one source in the PFF confirmed, there has been a significant delay on the NC’s part in submitting documentation to the Pakistan Sports Board.

Minister of Inter-Provincial Coordination Ehsan ur Rehman Mazari had already made his views clear last month that he had no issues with the team travelling to India for the SAFF Championship, which kicks off on June 21.

Before that, Pakistan are to feature in the four-nations tournament in Mauritius, which begins on June 11 and also features the hosts, Kenya and Djibouti.

On Tuesday, the IPC minister clarified that the PSB had submitted the documentation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to the Interior Ministry and clearance from the latter was awaited.

“Initially, they were not handing over the undertaking documentation, which holds the federation responsible if any player slips on the tour,” Mazari told Dawn. “Once we received the full set of documentation, we immediately sent it over to MOFA and the Interior ministry for clearance as without that, there can’t be a NOC.”

He informed that MOFA had cleared the team for its journey to Mauritius “yesterday and today we were told that it has no issues with the team proceeding to India”.

“All that we’re waiting for now is clearance from the Interior Ministry but with the diplomatic tensions between Pakistan and India, these things will take time as the ministry has to conduct background checks and all.”

PFF NC member Shahid Khokhar confirmed on Tuesday that all documentation had been sent. “Now we’re hoping that the NOC arrives in time as the team is scheduled to depart on Thursday for Mauritius,” he told Dawn on Tuesday.

The PFF NC, Khokhar added, is hoping that the NOC to travel to India is also received before the team’s departure for Mauritius so that visas for the players can be applied in time and “they can fly directly to India from there”.

Pakistan’s last game of the four-Nations tournament is scheduled for June 17 against Djibouti.

They play India in the Group ‘A’ opener of the SAFF Championship four days later.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2023

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