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Why the 9th SAFF title win for India is special?

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

India won their 9th SAFF title on 4th June 2023 in Shree Kanteerva stadium, Bangalore in front of a packed 26K crowd. In this edition of the SAFF Championship, two teams from the West Asian region were invited, Lebanon & Kuwait. The WAFF region countries are quite strong competitors in Asian football and are much better than SAFF. After India defeated Lebanon in the semi-final, the thrilling final was against Kuwait, a mutch quality side having players with great technical ability. India started the match quite shakily conceding within 15 minutes of the match and Kuwait were overpowering India through their technical skills.

But after conceding the boys showed character which helped them to score an equalizer after some brilliant one-touch football. Kuwait was more threatening but failed to score and India also got a few good chances which they failed to convert. The match went on through extra time to penalties where India beat Kuwait 5-4, thanks to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu again, to lift the 9th SAFF title. It was Lallanzuala Chhangte who scored the equalizer for India in the final. Sunil Chettri the legend of Indian football won the top scorer Golden Ball award and Most Valuable Player of the tournament award.

The 9th title of the SAFF for India is different would be written in history in bold letters, here is why:

Participation from West Asian teams:

India has been quite dominant in SAFF Championship since its inception as they had won the tournament 8 times before. But all those wins came against the South Asian teams only as before this edition no teams from outside were ever invited. But this time two strong teams from West Asia, Lebanon & Kuwait, were invited according to South Asian standards. Everybody expected any one of them to win the title this time as no South Asian team would stand a chance.

But India defeated Lebanon in the semi-final and drew against Kuwait in the group stage. In the final India equalized after going one goal down through a wonderfully crafted goal. This is a feint sign that the quality of Indian players is improving slowly and hope the federation's target to produce top-class players, soon comes true.

World Cup qualifiers pot 2:

For the 1st time in Indian football's history, India has been able to solidify their place in pot 2 of World Cup qualifiers which would benefit India in getting quality FIFA official matches in AFC world cup qualifiers. Playing in the world cup is still a distant dream for India.

As an honest fan of Indian football, I would confess that we still don't have players of the quality anywhere near who could take us to the world cup. But previously the complaint from the coaches used to be we don't get enough quality matches at the national level but this year this might be a problem of the past.

Fans & Support:

26,500 fans approximately turning up in the stadium to watch a football match of the national team is really unbelievable. Previously the National team used to hardly get support for their matches but things are changing on that front quite fast. Fan engagement through social media content creators and through Twitter has been incredible, especially from the end of 2022 which is the result that we got to see yesterday.

Big tifos were made by West Block Blues an ultra fanbase of Bengaluru FC, which had on it "Our jungle, our prey" with an illustration of a "Blue Tiger" which is the identity of the team. Moreover, the Prime Minister of the country and other important dignitaries put up appreciation posts for the team on their social media handles which was unheard of before. Something has changed drastically and quite fast. But this will be the appeal to the government from all the Indian football fans to again raise the budget for Indian football which was reduced quite drastically a few years before for corruption.

These are the kinds of atmosphere the core fans and our captain Sunil Chettri have been demanding for a long. The positive climb of our Indian football team would be the prayer of all.



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