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India calendar adds to AIFF’s league scheduling woes

The Indian football team will play a minimum of five more internationals as they attempt to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, adding to AIFF’s league scheduling woes

football Updated: Jun 11, 2017 21:23 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
India’s matches in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers will add to AIFF’s scheduling headache.
India’s matches in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers will add to AIFF’s scheduling headache.(AIFF)

India’s schedule for the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers has added to the already complex problem of finding a window for the domestic football season that may not begin before November because the FIFA U-17 World Cup runs from October 6-28.

Beginning with Tuesday’s home-leg of the qualifier against Kyrgyz Republic in Bengaluru, India will play a minimum of five more internationals as they attempt to be among Asia’s elite in 2019. Qualifying is priority for us, said a senior AIFF official. Add to that the possibility of friendlies, a planned international tournament in August and the senior national team could play 15 matches in one year.

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It is not a patch on Mexico who will play anything between 12 to 17 games in two months between May and July --- depending on how far they go in the Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup --- but would be the most India have played since 2011 when they featured in 20 games in a calendar year.

India host Myanmar on November 14 so the earliest the season could start is November 18 because it is a weekend. India’s next international is on March 27, away to Kyrgyz Republic and given that two teams from the group would make it to the finals, this last qualifier could be of crucial importance.

So, the longest uninterrupted window for the club season is November 18 to mid or late March assuming national coach Stephen Constantine would again want to hold a preparatory camp before the last qualifier.

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Club competitions can also happen in April but with India committed to defending its SAFF Championship title in Bangladesh possibly next May, even that month is unlikely to be fully available.

If the AIFF still manages to squeeze in two leagues in 2017-18, it could mean that internationals would play over 40 games in six months. That is unless it keeps away the national team probables like it did before the 2011 Asian Cup finals. Whether it decides to do that could be known on Saturday when another meeting on the 2017-18 season has been scheduled in New Delhi.

India’s schedule (June 2017-June 2018)

June 13: vs Kyrgyz Republic (H); August: Scheduled international 4-nation tournament in India; Sept. 5: vs Macau (A); Oct. 10: vs Macau (H); Nov. 14: vs Myanmar (H); March 27: vs Kyrgyz Republic (A). SAFF Championship (Tentative): May 1-15.