New Delhi. India and Pakistan football teams will be seen clashing after almost five years as both the neighboring countries have been placed in the same group for the SAFF Cup to be held in Bengaluru from June 21 to July 4.
Defending champions India, Pakistan, Kuwait and Nepal were placed in Group A while Lebanon, Maldives, Bangladesh and Bhutan were placed in Group B in the draw for the 14th tournament of the South Asian Football Federation (SAIF) Cup here on Wednesday. The matches will be played on the basis of a round-robin format and the top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals. This eight-nation tournament will be played at the Kanteerava Stadium.
To make the tournament more competitive, two countries from outside South Asia, Lebanon and Kuwait, have been invited to play in the competition. Lebanon is the best ranked team participating in the tournament with 99th position. Pakistan has the worst ranking with 195th position. India is the second best ranked team with 101st position. India and Pakistan last met in September 2018 during the 12th season of the SAFF Cup in Dhaka. India won the match 3–1 but lost 1–2 against Maldives in the final.
India and Pakistan have officially played more than 20 international matches in total. In these, India has won more than a dozen matches while dominating. India has won the SAFF Cup title eight times while it has been runner-up four times. India failed to reach the final only during the fifth season in 2003 in Dhaka. The team had then secured the third position. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is hopeful that Pakistan’s players and support staff will get visas to participate in the tournament.
AIFF President Kalyan Choubey said after the draw, “Pakistan has confirmed their participation in the tournament, so their name is here in the draw.” All the countries of the South Asia region have the right to play in this tournament. “He said, “But issuing visas, giving security to the team, these are not the functions of any country’s football federation. The AIFF administration will coordinate with the relevant ministries of the government and we will get a response in due course.’ Is.
Prabhakaran said, “We do not see any issues here. They (Pakistani contingent) have already applied for visas and the process has started. Pakistan has not participated in two of the 13 tournaments held since 1993. The reason could not send its team to the 2015 tournament held in India, while the team could not play in the 2021 tournament in Maldives due to suspension from FIFA. FIFA had lifted the suspension imposed on Pakistan in June last year. Asked whether the AIFF has got any assurance from the government for the safe conduct of the tournament, Choubey said, “FIFA’s (world governing body) slogan is That FIFA unites the world through football. AIFF is a member association of FIFA.
He said, “We do not look at caste, creed and religion under the FIFA charter. When a player enters the field wearing his national jersey, you do not see the caste and religion of that player, the player represents his country. SAIF general secretary Anwar-ul-Haq said the participating countries have assured the organizers that they will send their strong national teams.
He said, “We can assure you that Lebanon, Kuwait and all other participating teams will send their strong national teams.” Anwar said, “We could have brought other countries for the tournament as suggested by AIFF. But their national teams were busy and we did not want any age group team for this tournament.
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