The Indian government has given a green signal to the Pakistan football team to travel to India to participate in the 14th edition of the SAFF Championship (South Asia Football Federation Cup) starting on June 21. All India Football Federation (AIFF) confirmed that the Pakistan team has received clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs, and the Sports Ministry on Thursday, June 8.
AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran revealed that the Indian Federation has 'done its part' and Pakistan are now due to complete VISA formalities to compete in the mega tournament in Bengaluru.
"Yes, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, and Sports Ministry all have cleared (Pakistan's participation)," Prabhakaran told PTI. "We have done our part. We welcome them (Pakistan) and all the participating countries have got visa clearance. They have to do their part of the visa formalities."
Due to the dire relationship between neighboring nations, the Pakistan football team missed the 2015 edition of the tournament hosted by India. Pakistan team also missed the last edition of the tournament in 2021 after being suspended by FIFA. However, they are set to travel to India and rejuvenate their FIFA rankings. India last played Pakistan in international football during the 2018 SAFF Championship where the Blue Tigers emerged victorious with a 3-1 win.
However, Pakistan face a tough challenge as they are placed in Group A and face champions India in their opening game on June 21 and last edition's runner-up Nepal on June 27. Lebanon, Kuwait, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Maldives are the other participating countries. Sri Lanka are serving the suspension imposed by FIFA and will not participate in SAFF Cup for the first time in the tournament's history.
AIFF is also set to host the Intercontinental Cup 2023 which will be played from June 9 to June 15 at Bhubaneshwar's Kalinga Stadium.