Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: After a long gap of nine years, Pakistan football team is expected to play a series against India in India in August this year.
The series is being planned between the neighbouring countries after India sent a letter to the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) recently, showing interest in hosting Pakistan this summer. “We will soon send the dates and, hopefully, the series will be held in August as the Indian team will not be available in September because of its other commitments,” PFF’s secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Wednesday. “We want to go there for two or three matches,” said the official.
Meanwhile, an official of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) told this correspondent that although nothing concrete had been done so far, they wanted to have a series. “There’s nothing as of now. But we need to have such a series,” AIFF Media Manager Nilanjan Datta said in a message to this correspondent.
If held, it would be a milestone in the footballing relations between the two countries.
Both the countries last played a three-match series in Pakistan in June 2005. It was won by the Green-shirts on goal-average after it had ended 1-1.
The first game in Quetta ended in a 1-1 draw. India notched a 1-0 victory over Pakistan in the second show at the Qayyum Sports Complex in Peshawar to take 1-0 lead. But Pakistan fought back strongly and inflicted a crushing 3-0 defeat on the visitors in their third outing in Lahore to make it 1-1.
It has been learnt that the PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat has strong relations with the AIFF chief Shri Praful M Patel, which might have played a role in the development.
Both the federations have desired such a series for a long time.
In 2011 an England-based company planned a football series between Pakistan and India in England but it had to cancel it at the eleventh hour after failing to get the required sponsorship.
In 2013, a triangular series in England, involving India, Pakistan and Bangladesh was cancelled because of the same problem.
The tickets for the series had also been sold out but at the eleventh hour the organisers decided against it due to sponsorship issue.
The recent visit of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to India may improve the sports ties between the two countries.
A few days ago, various franchises of India bought four Pakistan kabaddi players in an auction held in Mumbai for the inaugural Pro Kabaddi League which will be held in eight cities of India from July 26 to August 31.
Pakistan football team, whose camp will resume in Lahore on June 1, has been preparing for the Asian Games which will be held in South Korea from September 19 to October 4. A series against India will give it fine practice for the assignment in Korea.
The PFF is also trying to arrange a tour of Bahrain ahead of the Asiad. Bahrain’s Mohammed Shamlan is acting as Pakistan coach these days.