Wim Koevermans’ last tournament before his two-year deal comes up for renewal is going to be quite a trial by fire.
The Dutch coach wasn’t in Kathmandu for the draw for the SAFF Championship on Tuesday but don’t blame him if he thinks India’s pot luck could have been so much better.
The defending champions have been grouped with Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the eight-team competition, scheduled here from September 1-11, where the winners get $50,000 and the runners-up $25,000. Two teams from each group go through to the semifinals.
Bangladesh won this tournament in 2003 and have been semifinalists in all subsequent editions.
Playing Nepal at home is always a difficult fixture as even their under-16 national team, according to former East Bengal striker and All Nepal Football Association president Ganesh Thapa, draws a crowd of 10,000 to Dasarath Stadium where all matches of the SAFF Championship would be held.
Then you have Pakistan who India play in the tournament’s opening match. Winners in 2009 too, India have won six of the nine editions of what began as the SAARC Gold Cup in 1993.
The writer’s trip was sponsored by World Sports Group.