The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is keen to invite one or two nations from outside the South Asian region to compete in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship later this year.
AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey stated that getting a couple of higher-ranked teams will improve the competition in the tournament. India has traditionally dominated the tournament, winning eight of the 13 editions held so far. The field usually includes weaker sides like Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and others.
“This year, we want to include one or two teams from outside the SAFF region. This will create more competition for the Indian team. Having higher ranked teams in the tournament will raise the standard of Indian football. We are in discussion with stakeholders, and we will announce our decision in May,” Chaubey stated in a press conference here on Sunday.
The tournament will be held in Bengaluru from June 21 to July 3.
Asked if Pakistan will be allowed to compete in the tournament, Chaubey said, “We will abide by the decision of the Ministry of External Affairs. However, we want to welcome all participating teams. We do not want to mix politics and sports,” Chaubey said.
Chaubey, a former India international footballer, was part of the team which won the SAFF Championship in 1999 and 2005.
AIFF Secretary General Shaji Prabhakaran, AIFF Vice President and Karnataka State Football Association President N.A. Haris, and Karnataka Olympic Association President K. Govindraj were present at the press conference.