Pakistan face travel woes ahead of qualifier against Tajikistan

Published June 11, 2024 Updated June 11, 2024 03:04pm
Pakistan football team. — X/PFF
Pakistan football team. — X/PFF

LAHORE: A significant portion of the Pakistan football team, comprising nine players and two officials, finds themselves in a limbo as they await their departure for Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where they are slated to engage in the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier against the host nation on Tuesday.

The journey hit an unexpected snag when a technical glitch grounded the airline initially designated to transport the nine players and two officials from Faisalabad to Dushanbe on June 8.

While seven players and two officials successfully reached Dushanbe via a scheduled flight from Islamabad, the shortage of available seats compelled the Normalisation Committee of the Pakistan Football Federation to secure additional spots on a Dubai-based carrier departing from Faisalabad. However, misfortune struck yet again as this flight was cancelled due to a bird strike, leaving the contingent stranded once more.

In a subsequent attempt, the NC endeavoured to secure a chartered flight from the national carrier, only to encounter yet another setback as technical issues thwarted their plans once more, depriving the players of their sole available opportunity to reach Dushanbe.

Despite the setbacks, a PFF official expressed optimism regarding the team’s timely arrival in Dushanbe ahead of the impending match.

“We have apprised the Prime Minister’s Office of the situation, and they are earnestly working towards securing an alternative flight for the squad to reach Dushanbe,” a PFF official said.

With Dushanbe merely a two-hour flight away from Lahore, hopes remain high that the remaining squad will arrive well in advance of kick-off time, ensuring their participation in the crucial encounter.

In the wake of these developments, PFF NC chairman Haroon Malik issued a press release underscoring the concerted efforts being exerted to facilitate the team’s journey to Dushanbe.

“Despite the arrival of eleven team members, including seven players and four officials, in Dushanbe following the recent match against Saudi Arabia, the presence of an additional nine players and two officials is imperative as per FIFA regulations,” Malik emphasised. “The current impasse regarding the team’s travel is deeply troubling.

“We are maintaining constant communication with Tajikistan football authorities and FIFA officials to apprise them of the developments.”

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2024

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