Arch rivals on the field, teams heap praises on each other off it
Emotions are sure to run high as India will play two friendly football matches against neighbours Pakistan at the football stadium here on August 17 and 20. The team arrived from Chennai this morning.
Both the teams will play for a win on the field…but off it, there was mutual admiration. Both Kaleem Ullah, the Pakistan captain, and Sunil Chhetri, the Indian spearhead, minced no words “gloating”’ about the other, while also insisting on how the teams were focussed ahead of the September Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Sardar Naveen Haider Khan, the Head of the delegation as also the Director, Marketing and Events, Pakistan Football Federation, here in Bangalore for the first time, said: “One could not imagine India and Pakistan playing a football friendly as part of the bilateral series. It has happened in cricket and hockey, but not even dreamt of playing football matches across the border”. A.R. Khaleel, president of the Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA) and chairman, National I-League, quickly corrected him: “It happened way back in 1956 and 57. Sammad, a player from Bangalore Muslims settled down in Karachi and for two successive seasons/years, brought the Leaders Club team down here to play a series of matches here and in Kerala…they beat us then, but it was years ago.”
Sardar Haider Khan had a word of praise too: “The Indian team has been doing well in recent years…but then, our team has been developing well over the years as well. We now have a structured A and B division leagues besides a professional league which had 16 teams. That is now being pruned to 12 teams with foreigners also playing in it,” he concluded. Meanwhile, sniffer dog squads from the Special Branch was on view at the stadium, going through the checks, as security measures were in full view on the eve of the match.