Pakistan players may have got their visas in time for their SAFF Championship opener against India on Wednesday, but more than half of their squad will reach their base in Bengaluru just hours before kickoff.
Pakistan are scheduled to take on India at 7.30pm in a highly anticipated clash between the two nations whose diplomatic relations have been severely strained.
The Pakistan team which was in Mauritius was to leave for India on June 18 after playing in a Four Nations tournament. But a delay in administrative processes – first the issuance of the No-Objection Certificate from the Pakistan Sports Board and then the visas from the Indian government – saw them miss their flight on Sunday.
Since leaving Mauritius, they have been on the road for the last 17 hours but multiple requests to the organisers to reschedule the match haven’t been accepted, according to a report by ESPN. However, The Indian Express understands that no formal request has been placed.
The Pakistan team landed in Mumbai at 1 am on Wednesday. Since they could not find 32 tickets on a single flight, the team was split into two flights from Mumbai to Bengaluru. However, due to delays at the airport, the second group – which has 14 players – missed their flight.
The Pakistan management had to find another flight to accommodate the second group, which reportedly has most of the players from the starting XI. They managed to take a flight that left Mumbai at 9:15 am and would reach Bengaluru around 11 am. The players are expected to reach their hotel, which is close to the Kanteerava Stadium, by 1 pm, the ESPN report stated.
Pakistan come into the SAFF Championship on the back of four consecutive losses. The game on Wednesday will mark the first football match between India and Pakistan since September 2018, when India rode on Manvir Singh’s brace to beat Pakistan 3-1 in the semifinal of the SAFF Championship.
Pakistan begin their campaign against defending SAFF champions India on June 21, then take on Kuwait on June 24 before facing Nepal on June 27.