SAFF Cup football: Visas issued, Pakistan likely to reach a day before tournament opener vs India

After receiving visas late Monday evening, the Pakistan football team is in a race against time to reach Bengaluru for their South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup against India on Wednesday.

According to reports in Pakistani media, the team was scheduled to take the first flight out of Mauritius and reach Bengaluru in time for their tournament opener against India. Even then, they could land less than 12 hours before the match as the earliest flight option available is Tuesday evening, via Mumbai.

Pakistan is scheduled to face India on Wednesday at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium at 7.30 pm.

Pakistan had hoped to reach the host city on Sunday after competing in a four-nation tournament in Mauritius.

However, they had to stay back in the island nation as their visas did not arrive in time for them to board the flight on Sunday morning.

Following an anxious wait, during which the SAFF briefly flirted with the idea of going ahead with the tournament sans Pakistan, they were granted visas on Monday. This was confirmed by the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) on social media. “See you soon, India,” they tweeted on Monday evening.

The Pakistan Football Federation might seek to reschedule the match, citing a lack of preparation time, but a source said any such request will not be entertained.

The source added that the Pakistani team had applied for visas with the Indian Embassy in Mauritius. However, since the Mission’s operations were closed over the weekend, their applications could only be processed on Monday.

Pakistan’s build-up to the regional tournament has been far from perfect. Earlier, the PFF had accused the country’s Sports Board of delaying the no-objection certificate for the team to travel to India. The Sports Board denied the allegations, saying that the Federation did not submit documents in time. Due to the delay in procuring the NOC from its government, Pakistan applied for Indian visas only last week.

Pakistan come into the tournament on the back of three straight defeats to Djibouti, Kenya and Mauritius. India, on the other hand, were unbeaten in the Intercontinental Cup and did not concede a goal in the four matches they played in the tournament.

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