by Faizan Lakhani
KARACHI: Pakistan football team which was set to participate in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup missed its flight on Sunday due to a delay in the issuance of India’s visa.
The biennial event is scheduled to be held in Bengaluru from June 21 to July 4. Pakistan are scheduled to face India on Wednesday.
The Green Shirts are in Mauritius and it was expected that they would get the visas on Saturday but till the filing of the report, nothing had happened.
The team was scheduled to fly for India on Sunday (today) at 11:30am Mauritius time but according to sources they were told by the Indian authorities to reschedule their departure and delay it until Monday.
This has put Pakistan’s team in a difficult situation. Sources said India’s High Commission in Mauritius has not yet got clearance from its Home Ministry to issue visas to the Pakistan team.
A Pakistan team official contacted Pakistan High Commission in India to extend its help in visa matters.
Sources said there are fears that some players may get visas and some may not as they will have to make individual clearance which is a long process. “The passports of the Pakistan football team are still with the Indian Embassy,” added the sources.
Due to a delay in visa, the team’s stay in Mauritius is extended. The officials of the team got in touch today, after which Indian football officials assured them they are to get the visas, as per the sources.
The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) officials are also contacting the SAFF tournament officials, said sources, adding that the football team had suffered a loss of Rs10.3 million due to missing of flights.
They added if the Pakistan team’s reservation for India’s tour is rescheduled then it will inflict Rs13 million damage on the country.
The next few hours are very important and if visas are not issued then Pakistan will have no option but to return home, said the sources, adding that Saturday was the last day of the four-nation event in Mauritius and Pakistan also will have to bear its boarding and lodging expenses if the team stays until Monday or Tuesday.
They further said that India’s visa matter had also put Pakistani players in persistent tension and they could not focus on their third game which the team lost against Djibouti 3-1 on Sunday.
FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee chairman Haroon Malik was contacted several times but did not receive this correspondent’s calls.
June 21 — India
June 24 — Kuwait
June 27 — Nepal
The SAFF General Secretary Anwarul Haque has confirmed that the upcoming SAFF Championship match between Pakistan and India can’t be rescheduled.
While speaking to News9 Sports, Haq also said that matches of Pakistan team, which is currently awaiting visas for India, could be cancelled if they don’t arrive in time for the tournament.
Pakistan are scheduled to face India on Wednesday in Bengaluru.
“The match is on Wednesday. Hopefully they can come by tomorrow (Monday),” Haq said.
“The match can’t be scheduled. It is out of the question because then it would mean rescheduling of the other matches, which is impossible.
“In case they can’t come, we have to cancel Pakistan’s matches.”
Meanwhile, a Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) official said that it might take a couple of days to issue the visas to Pakistan team.
“Some of them are yet to get clearance. So, they have been informed not to board their scheduled flight,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“The delay is from there end, not from our end. The ministry has informed the AIFF that work on their visa applications are going on and it might take a couple of days to give them the necessary go-ahead.
“We hope by tomorrow it gets cleared and by evening they can come. It’s an eight-hour flight from Mauritius to Bengaluru via a stopover in Mumbai.”
It must be noted that the Pakistan team was scheduled to fly for India from Mauritius, where they participated in a four-nation tournament recently, on Sunday (today) at 11:30am but according to sources they were told by the Indian authorities to reschedule their departure and delay it until Monday.
Sources said if Pakistan team’s reservation for India’s tour is rescheduled then it will inflict Rs13 million damage on the country. Pakistan will have to bear boarding and lodging expenses if the team stays in Mauritius until Monday or Tuesday.