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Grimsby’s Otis Khan ruled ineligible to play for Pakistan in World Cup qualifier

Grimsby Town’s Otis Khan was prevented from playing for Pakistan in the first leg of their World Cup qualifier against Cambodia by Fifa after it ruled he wasn’t eligible despite having a Pakistani passport.

Khan, who is from Ashton-under-Lyne and began his career at Sheffield United after being in Manchester United’s academy, made his debut for Pakistan against Mauritius in June in a friendly. He qualified through his paternal grandfather, Kanwar Jamil Mohammed Khan, who was born in Delhi but moved to Pakistan after the partition in 1947 before settling in Manchester.

Khan, a winger who joined Grimsby last year from Leyton Orient, has six caps and had been expecting to be part of the manager Stephen Constantine’s team that faced Cambodia on Thursday. However, it is understood that despite conducting an interview with Fifa’s website to preview the match he was informed this week that he had been ruled ineligible.

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The Pakistan Football Federation said in a statement that Fifa’s decision “remains pending” and said it was hopeful of a positive resolution.

“The issue revolves around a specific requirement that one of Otis’ grandparents must have been born in Pakistan,” the statement said. “In his case, his grandfather was born in Delhi, British India, prior to the partition and subsequently migrated to Pakistan, like millions of others. Fifa has neither confirmed his ineligibility nor definitively declared him eligible, and their decision remains pending.

“We want to emphasise that we are actively collaborating with Fifa to address this matter comprehensively. Otis is not only a vital member of our team but has already represented Pakistan with distinction. Our ongoing discussions with Fifa aim to resolve this issue and provide a resolution that recognises his eligibility.”

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Khan later released a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, that urged Fifa to reconsider. “Angry, disappointed, let down, gutted! I don’t know what to say,” he wrote. “Fifa please deal with this urgently as I’m sat in hotel waiting for you to do your admin.”

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@FIFAcom @TheRealPFF @officialgtfc

— Otis Khan (@OtisKhan63) October 12, 2023

According to the Pakistan government, any “persons who migrated to Pakistan from the territories in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent before the commencement of Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951 are declared citizens of Pakistan”. Fifa has been contacted for comment.

Pakistan’s 0-0 draw against Cambodia ended a 12-match losing streak. They will play their first competitive fixture in Pakistan since 2011 in the second leg in Islamabad on Tuesday due to a series of crises at the PFF and political unrest in the country.