KARACHI: The Pakistan football team will receive visas to travel to India for the SAFF Championship on Monday, AIFF general secretary Shaji Prabhakaran said on Sunday.
The team was due to depart for Bangalore, the host city of the tournament, from Mauritius, where it featured in the Four Nations Series, on Sunday but failed to board the flight due to the non-issuance of visas.
“Tomorrow it will be done,” Prabhakaran told Dawn, when asked about the visa situation with the national team having been forced to extend their stay in Mauritius, where they lost all their three matches in the round-robin tournament.
Pakistan had applied for visas on Thursday, after the Interior Ministry cleared their trip to Bangalore for South Asia’s showpiece tournament.
Pakistan, who take on arch-rivals India in their Group ‘A’ opener on June 21, submitted their, submitted the required No-Objection Certificate from the Pakistan Sports Board on Friday.
Head coach Shahzad Anwar bemoaned the “strange situation” faced by the team.
“Of course it is a disturbance; the uncertainty whether we will receive the visa tomorrow or not,” he told Dawn from Port Louis. “Only once we receive the visas, we can plan ahead,” he added, informing that if they aren’t able to board Monday’s flight, they will likely arrive in India on the morning of the match.
“Arriving on the morning of the game will be tough for us and this whole situation is likely to affect how we will approach the match. Our planning will surely be affected.”
SAFF president Kazi Salahuddin and secretary Anwar ul Haque Helal didn’t immediately respond to questions from Dawn whether there was a contingency plan if Pakistan fail to reach India in time for their opening game although the latter told India’s TV9 network that the fixture can’t be rescheduled.
“The match is on Wednesday. Hopefully they can come by Monday,” Helal was quoted as saying. “The match can’t be rescheduled. It is out of the question because then it would mean rescheduling of the other matches, which is impossible.”
Other sources, however told Dawn that Prabhakaran and AIFF chief Kalyan Chaubey will do their best in trying to accommodate Pakistan by rejigging the fixtures.
Earlier, the Press Trust of India news agency quoted an official of the Karnataka State Football Association as saying that he was confident that Pakistan will arrive well in time for their game against India.
“The India MHA [Ministry of Home Affairs] is closed on the weekend and their application is with the Indian Embassy in Mauritius. We are in touch with the AIFF, who is in touch with Embassy as well as the Pakistan Football Federation.
“The word coming through is that the visa applications of Pakistan players will be processed on Monday and they will be able to land in Bengaluru on Monday night or Tuesday morning well in time for the fixture.”
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2023