Indo-Pak series under a cloud of uncertainty

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: A cloud of uncertainty is looming over a proposed three-match friendly football series between Pakistan and India and there are apprehensions that it may remain as a dream only and will not be conducted at all in England.

The series, which was proposed to be held from July 8 to 18 in England, might be shifted as fresh dates have been proposed as the Indian government has not yet issued an NOC to its football governing body (AIFF).

“We are still waiting as the AIFF are yet to get any green signal from its government. Now, it won’t possible to hold the series in July and efforts would be made to conduct it from September 2-12,” Director Marketing and Event Management of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), Sardar Naveed Haider told ‘The News’ on Wednesday. “Now it is better to focus on World Cup qualifiers as they are very important for us.”

Pakistan are currently preparing for the first round of the World Cup 2014 qualifiers against Bangladesh to be held on June 29 and July 3 in Dhaka and Lahore respectively. On the other hand India, who have been placed in the second round with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are undergoing strenuous training for their vital slots to be held on July 24 and 28.

The series has already been approved by the AIFF during its executive committee meeting last month. Meanwhile, sources in the PFF said that the sponsors TouchSky Sports, which is a UEFA and FIFA recognised company, are facing some problems in holding the series.

“I feel that the sponsors are unable to handle the task,” a source close to the development said.

However, Naved Haider, who was behind this major deal, ruled out such an impression.

“Not at all. It’s not the reason. TouchSky Sports is a major and an efficient company and it is there and is ready to hold it,” he said.

The strained relations between the sub-continenental neighbours could be the stumbling block in the way of the series which is going to be held almost after a span of more than five years.

However, PFF official does not think so.

“I don’t think that it will not happen at all. Not only Indian athletes have featured in a judo tournament in Pakistan but the steps like visa relaxation are also being taken to bring normalcy in the relationship between the neighbouring states,” Naved Haider said.

The last time Pakistan had hosted India in 2005 for a three-match series, it was won by the hosts on goal-difference after both teams won a match each while the game in Quetta ended in a 1-1 draw.