The Pakistan football team got off to a horror start in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship, losing to arch-rivals India 0-4. It was India captain Sunil Chhetri who netted a hat-trick while Udanta Singh bagged a solitary goal in the rout. While there’s no denying that India dominated Pakistan all throughout the 90 minutes, the visitors put a part of the blame for their defeat on the delayed arrival for the match. Pakistan coach Torben Witajewski feels the team’s visa and ticketing issue played a big role in their performance against India.
“The problem about the travel was we received the visa very late and a lot of problems in Mumbai at the airport with the immigration. So it was tough for the guys. The last group arrived at half past one in the hotel today (Wednesday). After 16 hours, right. So this is not easy, it’s very tough but you have to cope with the situation. You cannot change it,” said the Pakistan team’s coach.
It was not the build-up the Pakistan football team would have anticipated ahead of its SAFF Championship opener against hosts India, with more than half of the side arriving only six hours ahead of the tie due to unavailability of tickets on a single flight.
“For sure, we couldn’t change the situation, the problem is the visa. So we had a lot of problems in Mauritius. So it was not easy, but we cannot change. But if we had more time the performance would be different. If you travel through the night, the players cannot sleep. We arrived today at half past one, it’s not good preparation for a match. We cannot expect a lot from the guys.”
The bizarre chain of events was set off after the Pakistan team arrived in Mumbai from Mauritius at 1:00 am on Wednesday morning. The Pakistan squad comprising 32 members — players and coaching staff — could not find seats in a single aircraft and was forced to split into two groups
The first set boarded a 4:00 am flight to Bengaluru, but the second lot took a 9.15 am flight due to some issues pertaining to immigration clearance at the Mumbai airport.
The second batch reached their team hotel close to the Kanteerava Stadium only past 1:00 pm, barely six hours ahead of the kickoff.
This was also the first football match between India and Pakistan since September 2018. On that day, India had defeated the neighbours 3-1 in the semifinal of the SAFF tournament.