India allows Pakistan football team's participation in SAFF Cup

India's sports, interior, foreign ministers provide required clearances for Pakistan's participation in tournament

Faizan Lakhani
Pakistans football team. — PFF/File
Pakistan's football team. — PFF/File

  • All relevant Indian ministries provide clearance to Pakistan.
  • The football tournament will start in Bangalore on June 21.
  • Decision on Pakistan team's visit yet to be made by foreign office.

KARACHI: A major hurdle in the Pakistan football team's participation in this month's South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup was cleared on Wednesday when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) got clearance from the Indian government to host the Pakistan football team.

Reliable sources in both India and Pakistan football have confirmed to this correspondent that India's sports, interior, and foreign ministers have provided all required clearances for Pakistan's participation in the tournament.

The regional football tournament will be played in Bangalore from June 21 to July 4, and for the event, Pakistan will be in India from June 18 to July 5.

Sources told Geo News that AIFF has sent an email to the PFF providing them with all necessary documents along with the official invitation letter.

The documents are also forwarded to the Indian embassies in Islamabad and Mauritius for issuance of visas to Pakistan football team members.

A source in PFF confirmed that Pakistan is planning to apply for Indian visas from Mauritius as the team is flying there to participate in a four-nation tournament.

Sources also confirmed that while Pakistan's foreign office has issued clearance for the team to travel to Mauritius, a decision on the team's visit to India is yet to be made by the foreign office.

Football is not the only sport affected due to strained relations between Pakistan and India, since there is also uncertainty around Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) hosting cricket’s Asia Cup this year.

It must be noted that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has refused to send their team to Pakistan for the Asia Cup and is keen on ensuring that the event is held at a neutral venue.

However, the PCB is not keen on hosting the event outside Pakistan since it would affect its efforts with regards to the return of international cricket in the country.

Although, Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged that sports should be kept away from politics during his trip to Goa, last month, where he attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting.

“I believe we shouldn’t hold sport hostage to politics or foreign policy — sports inherently should be kept away from politics. It would be very petty of India if it were to hold sport hostage to politics,” Bilawal said at a press conference.