ISLAMABAD: All members of the Pakistan squad for the SAFF Championship received their visas to travel to India for the tournament. However, there still remains uncertainty over when the team will land in Bangalore from Mauritius with their opening game scheduled for Wednesday against hosts and arch-rivals India.

The national team was due to fly to India from Port Louis on Sunday, a day after playing their third and concluding match of the Four Nation Series, but was forced to miss its scheduled flight due to non-issuance of visa.

Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee officials were finally called on Monday by the Indian High Commission to receive the passports of the team.

“We were called to collect our passports at 5:30pm [Mauritius time] from the Indian High Commission,” Pakistan football team coach Shehzad Anwar told Dawn from Port Louis. “We are waiting to see if the whole squad has been granted visas. Our officials are there to collect the passports.”

Just over an hour later, Shehzad informed that the whole squad had been given visas. “Now we’ll figure out the best and earliest route to India,” he added.

SAFF officials have ruled out rescheduling Pakistan’s opening Group ‘A’ fixture although reports in India are suggesting that the fixture list could be tweaked to accommodate Pakistan if they were to arrive in India on the day of the game.

Pakistan are due to play Kuwait on June 24 and Nepal three days later in their remaining group games.

The national team will head to India on the back of three defeats in a week. They lost 3-0 to Mauritius in their round-robin Four Nations Series opener before losing 1-0 and 3-1 to Kenya and tournament winners Djibouti, respectively.

India, meanwhile, head into the SAFF Championship on a winning high after winning the four-team Intercontinental Cup on home soil, beating Lebanon 2-0 in the final on Sunday.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2023

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