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India seeking postponement of SAFF Championship

SAFF Championship finds itself in hot water.

The tournament is in jeopardy after India urged the organisers to postpone the event by a few months

What’s the story?

India are pushing for a delay in this year’s SAFF Championship due to the Indian Super League. As things stand, the tournament is in jeopardy after India urged the organisers to postpone the event by a few months.

SAFF General Secretary Anwarul Huq told IANS, “India is saying that because of the Under-17 World Cup, the ISL is starting late. So, the ISL will end late and not in December. Then they said there can be a merger of competing ISL and I-League and thus the number of teams can increase.

“It (SAFF Cup) was supposed to start on December 25 and end on January 5 or 6. India wants it to be shifted to May. They said because of the World Cup their scheduling has been delayed.”

Anwarul Haq further added, "We asked them even if it is delayed by a month let us know. But they (AIFF) said maybe it will continue till April. It was supposed to start on December 25 and end on January 5 or 6. India wants it to be shifted to May.

“They said because of the World Cup their scheduling has been delayed. I got the letter a few days ago from Kushal Das (All India Football Federation's General Secretary). Let me talk to the sponsors now whether they will agree or not."

The context

SAFF Championship is the premier football competition of the national teams of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The 12th edition of the competition is scheduled to be held in Bangladesh in December.

The heart of the matter

India are the defending champions and the most successful team of the biennial tournament. Now held between seven countries, Afghanistan was a part of the federation before they left in 2015. A previous edition, also hosted by Bangladesh, was postponed in 2001.

India have been crowned champions a record 7 times, most recently in 2015 when they beat Afghanistan in the final.

What’s next?

A lot is on Indian football’s plate right now with the proposed merger of ISL and I-League. India is also hosting the U-17 World Cup in October. AIFF vice-president Subrata Dutta was also of the view that with this being a special year as India is hosting the U-17 World Cup, he hopes that the AIFF honour the request.

Author’s take

The confusion regarding the SAFF Championship is an anomaly in this prosperous period of Indian football, one they can certainly do without. Let’s hope the matter is resolved at the earliest.

Also Read: Indian national football team break 21-year record to enter FIFA top 100

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