Pakistan’s trip to India for the SAFF Championship 2023 is in jeopardy as the Pakistan Football Federation is yet to receive the required clearances from its government. Pakistan plays its opener against India on June 21.
“All Sports persons and teams which are travelling abroad have to apply for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). The PSB in turn has to get permission from the Sports Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We can apply for a visa once we get the NOC,” says Shahid Khokhar, a member of the Pakistan Football Federation Normalisation Committee which has been running the federation since it was suspended by FIFA in 2021.
The Pakistan Football Federation applied for a NOC on May 25 but is yet to receive clearance to participate in the tournament in India.
The team also needs to get a NOC for a four-nation tournament in Mauritius from June 11-17.
“The team is leaving on Thursday. So we need to get a NOC before that. Our original plan was to travel to India for the SAFF Championship (which is scheduled to begin on June 21).
But without a NOC we cannot apply for an Indian visa since Indian visas are given in-person. In case we receive the NOC for India later, one option would be to travel back to Pakistan and apply for a visa,” Khokhar adds.
“But that would be very difficult as well. Hopefully, we should get the NOC before we leave for Mauritius. All our players are really looking forward to playing in India.”
With the delay in the granting of the NOC, members of the Pakistan national football team took to social media.
“This is very important. We request the Pakistan Foreign Ministry and Pakistan Sports Board to provide us with a NOC so that we can focus on training and not on other things,” defender Mamoon Moosa said in a video posted by the Twitter handle of the Pakistan Football Federation.
India and Pakistan last played against each other in September 2018 in the semifinal of the 12th edition of the SAFF Cup in Dhaka.
India won that match 3-1. Pakistan did not feature in only two tournaments out of the 13 editions (of the SAFF Football Championship) held so far since 1993.
The Pakistan Football Federation could not send its team to the 2015 edition held in India due to internal issues. The country missed the 2021 edition in Maldives as it was serving a suspension from FIFA.
The suspension was lifted in June last year.
India is the second highest-ranked team at the SAFF Championship (No. 101), after Lebanon (No. 99) while Pakistan is the lowest ranked (No. 195) in the FIFA rankings.
Pakistan, however, is hoping for a strong performance since it’s been bolstered by a number of foreign-born players including former England U-20 captain Easah Suliman.
“Pakistan team is at its finest. I request Pakistan foreign ministry and Pakistan Sports Board to please give the NOC as soon as possible so we can make the country proud,” defender Haseeb Khan said in the video posted by the Pakistan Football Federation Twitter handle.
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