Pakistan footballers to play in India for first time since 2014

Pakistan’s national team players have been given visas for India, officials said, where they will take on the hosts on Wednesday in their first match on Indian soil since 2014.

The South Asian neighbours will kick off the South Asia Football Federation (SAFF) Championship.

The two countries rarely play home matches against each other in any sport due to long-running political tensions made worse by the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008.

The participation of Pakistan in the Bengaluru event has raised hopes Islamabad will take part in the ICC World Cup cricket tournament hosted by India later this year, having earlier threatened to boycott the event.

“As devoted sportsmen, we understand the power of sports in transcending political boundaries and fostering strong relationships between nations,” Pakistan captain Yousaf Butt told AFP.

He was speaking from Mauritius, where Pakistan has taken part in a four-nation event.

“We will put in a worthy performance despite zero sleep and jetlag — and off the field will try to win hearts to ease the tension.”

The 32-strong touring party only received their visas late Monday.

The last time Pakistan played football in India was in 2014, when they drew a two-match series, but they also faced off in the SAFF Championship in Bangladesh in 2018, with India winning 3-1.

Football is popular in both nations but dwarfed by cricket.

Despite the millions in revenue bilateral cricket matches would earn, the last time they played on home soil was when Pakistan toured India for five limited-overs matches in 2012.

The eight-nation SAFF Championship kicks off Wednesday, with Pakistan in Group A alongside India, Kuwait, and Nepal, and Group B featuring Lebanon, Maldives, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

The final is scheduled for July 4.


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