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Women footballers aim for SAF glory

The Indian women's football team is looking to end the year they returned to the FIFA rankings on a high by winning the first South Asian Football (SAF) Championship.

sports Updated: Oct 29, 2010 23:22 IST
Sharad Deep

The Indian women's football team is looking to end the year they returned to the FIFA rankings on a high by winning the first South Asian Football (SAF) Championship.

Cobbled from different parts of the country and from backgrounds as varied as chalk and cheese, 39 footballers are training here for the championship in Bangladesh from December 3-15.

The top spot is what head coach Shahid Jabbar's aiming for. "It's an achievable target, especially after our victory in the South Asian Games which was also held in Bangladesh."

That victory last February, riding a whopping, 29 goals in five matches, brought India back into the FIFA rankings nearly one year after being scratched for not playing internationals.

Tababi Devi, India's top scorer in the South Asian Games with six goals, said winning that tournament was a big deal for women's football if only because it got India back in the FIFA rankings.

"For all of us, it was big challenge before the start of the event, but the journey was fascinating," she said. "Winning the gold was a big boost to our team and I would like to continue the good run in the SAF Championship."

"We have been doing well for the last two years, and I am hopeful of team's good show at Bangladesh event."

Jabbar is convinced that these women have the stamina and skill to emerge best among the participating octet. "Last time (in the South Asian Games), there were just five teams. But, this time all eight teams - the Maldives, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal apart from India have confirmed."

Up next after the December championship is the Olympic qualifiers in March and to that end, Jabbar said the Bangladesh meet would serve as good preparation. India will also play some friendlies to prepare for the qualifiers, he said. Neither the venue nor the schedule of the Olympic qualifiers have been decided yet, Jabbar said.