The Indian football team will begin their South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship on Wednesday against Pakistan at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru. Captain Sunil Chhetri described his experience of playing Pakistan in a football match – and his description was not far off from what most believe to be the case with cricketers from both sides of the border.
“Before the Pakistan match, whenever we met the boys, it was all hunky dory. Even when I was in Pakistan once or twice we’ve played here and there… We were all fine and friendly. We are all nice, they speak Punjabi, we speak Punjabi, the moment the whistle blows I don’t know what happens,” Chettri said in an ISL video.
“It’s by default, just the sense of anyone but them. Maybe it’s ingrained in our upbringing as Indians and I’m pretty sure they will say the same thing. The hostility, the fact that we don’t want to lose against them comes in,” he added.
The run up to the game has had its fair share of controversies, mostly due to the delays in getting clearance for Pakistan to arrive in India. At first there was the ‘No objection Certificate’ that the Pakistan Football Federation was struggling to receive from its own government.
Once that hurdle was crossed, the Pakistan team was unable to receive their visas on time in Mauritius from the Indian embassy, according to the PFF. It was only yesterday where the visas were cleared and even then, ESPN India reported that only six of the players managed to board their flights to Bengaluru from Mumbai and the rest of the 14 players will only be arriving with a few hours left before the game begins.
India are in Group A of the SAFF Championships with Pakistan, Nepal and Kuwait.