Pakistan's participation in SAFF Suzuki Cup is uncertain

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Pakistan will face India in their opening game of the SAFF Suzuki Cup later this year but the fate of the national team remains hanging in the balance due to the crisis in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).

The PFF has split into two factions after claims of incompetence and corruption in the lead-up to its presidential polls which were scheduled for June 30 and now awaits a FIFA decision into the matter.

World's football governing body FIFA will discuss the Pakistan issue in its Associations Committee meeting on Sept 21 and it will only be after a final decision is reached that preparations for South Asia's marquee football event will take place.

Pakistan will face arch-rivals India in their Group 'A' opener at the SAFF Cup on December 23 before facing Nepal two days later and concluding their group stage campaign against Sri Lanka on December 27 after the draws for the tournament were made in New Delhi on Wednesday.

"We have to lay the groundwork for the SAFF Cup now regardless of the FIFA decision," former PFF secretary Col Mujahidullah Tareen told Dawn on Wednesday.

"With the national team having been out of action for the last several months, we need to get started so that we're able to compete there."

But the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is hoping that it will not prove to be a hindrance when Pakistan visit for the South Asian event which will be held in Kerala from December 23-January 3.

"We had Pakistan before in 2011 and played a couple of friendlies in Bangalore last year," said AIFF general secretary Kushal Das after Wednesday's draw, in comments reported by Press Trust of India.
"Necessary permission have to be taken from the government but I don't see any problem.

"We will have to face it when it comes," Das added about a possible Plan B. "We don't foresee any problems. It is important to follow the process, may be in other cases the process was not correctly followed."