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SANTOSH TROPHY: Karnataka wins the title after 54 years on Saudi Soil.

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

  1. History and Inception of the Tournament.

  2. Formant this season

    1. Qualification

    2. Final Round

    3. Semi-Final and Final

  3. The decision to hold the tournament in Saudi Arabia

  4. Review of Semi Final and Final.

Introduction, History & Inception of the Tournament:

Hero Santosh Trophy or National Football Championship, which started in 1941 is one of Indian Football's Legacy Tournaments. The other tournaments present then such as Rovers Cup, IFA Shield were for clubs. It is a State level National Football Competition in the country. The Santosh Trophy is named after the former Maharaja of Santosh (now in Bangladesh) Sir Manmath Nath Roy Chowdhury, a legendary figure in Indian Football.

Santosh Trophy can be called a Semi-Professional Tournament, where the best playing XI from State League Clubs are picked, amalgamated, and played together for a temporary period in the tournament; & after the tournament, the players again move back to their respective clubs.

Format This Season:

The Santosh Trophy this season as programmed by AIFF (All India Football Federation) started from the Qualification round with 36 teams (States & Union Territories). 36 teams were divided into 6 Groups. Top 6 teams from each group & best 4 runners-up qualified for the Final Round; i.e. only 12 teams qualified for the final round. Services and Railways were the special entries for the final round.

In the final round, the 12 teams were divided into 2 groups, and the top 2 teams from each group qualified for Semi-Final.

Semi-Final & Final in Saudi Arabia:

AIFF with the mission of popularizing football as a sport in India decided to hold the semi-final and final of the tournament in Saudi Arabia, at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh where a few days before the legends of football Messi and Ronaldo played in an exhibition match. VAR was also used, a first in Indian Football during the Final. The AIFF told in media that the thought of playing on foreign soil, somewhere like Saudi Arabia would push the players and State FAs to give their very best in the tournament and qualify for the Semis.

Review of Semi-Final and Final:

Indeed the decision of AIFF of hosting the tournament on foreign soil inspired the players, coaches, and staff to give it their all. The quality of gameplay shown by the 4 teams- Karnataka, Meghalaya, Punjab & Services has raised eyebrows of many back in India. The fast-paced gameplay, quick feet, quick thinking, and good passing football watched the attention of many football lovers, which showed how much the high-quality pitch of King Fahd Stadium where Messi and Ronaldo played has inspired the young stars. I even felt the quality of the final match was better than ISL.

The Final was a nail-biting contest as Karnataka and Meghalaya locked horns. Karnataka won the trophy after 54 years with a 3-2 scoreline. Meghalaya pushed so hard and looked so threatening after falling behind 3-1 at half-time that it felt a come-back is on the way, but sadly it didn't happen. A fantastic freekick by Robin from Karnataka just before halftime led Karnataka to the trophy. Robin scored a similar fantastic free kick in the Semi-Final also. Another young player, Shin from Meghalaya attracted eyes.

The spectator turnout was a bit disappointing in Saudi and that's because Kerala the last season's Champions failed to qualify for the semis which surprised many as they were the favorites this season too and many Keralites live in Saudi Arabia. But still, this hosting in Saudi Arabia got much Indian Media coverage, in the National News Papers which otherwise they wouldn't have got. Let's hope these initiatives and proper grassroots developments popularize and improve Indian Football's quality.



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