Chaubey requests restart; India could play Merdeka again in Sept. 2023
The invitational tournament where India were runners-up twice has not been held since 2013.
India’s tryst with the Merdeka invitational football tournament could resume next September, said Kalyan Chaubey, president All India Football Federation (AIFF).
“We met Football Association of Malaysia’s (FAM) president (Dato Haji Hamidin bin Haji Mohd. Amin) on Friday evening and I requested him to restart the Mederka tournament. He said it is possible that it will happen next year and if it is, India will be invited,” said Chaubey over the phone from Hyderabad on Saturday.
Since the tournament is linked to a celebration of Malaysia’s Independence Day on August 31, it is likely that the competition will be held in the FIFA window in September, said Chaubey. As per the 2023 FIFA calendar, .the international window is from September 4-12.
If the tournament is slotted for the October window, India’s participation could be a problem because of the Indian Super League.
Following discussions it was decided FAM would look at inviting teams such as Hong Kong, Turkmenistan, Singapore, Thailand along with India and Malaysia for Merdeka, said Chaubey.
India were runners-up in 1959 and 1964 in the competition which began in 1957. Barring 1972, India played every edition from 1964 to 1971 and were third in 1970. In 1981 and 1986 too, India played the semi-finals under the captaincy of Shabbir Ali and Sudip Chatterjee respectively. Marto Gracious (1967), Subhas Bhowmick (1971), Ali (1976) and Krishanu Dey (1986) have scored hattricks for India in Merdeka. The tournament has not been held since 2013.
Chaubey and AIFF secretary-general Shaji Prabhakaran also met Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. The AIFF president said he had requested AFC to send five coaches instructors for a coaches’ training programme. AIFF will choose 50 coaches each from north, south, east, west and central India, said Chaubey. Each group will be under an AFC coach, he said. The AFC president has referred the proposal to its technical director Andy Roxburgh, said Chaubey.