Come September: Shining there will be Indian national teams in seven different tournaments

NEW DELHI: September 2023 is set to be one of the busiest months in Indian Football history, with the national teams competing in as many as seven different tournaments in four nations across Asia.

The men’s senior, U23, U19 and U16, while the women’s senior and U17 teams will be in action. September 21 will be the busiest day on the calendar with four matches – the Indian men and women against Bangladesh and Chinese Taipei respectively in the Asian Games in China, the men’s U19 team versus Bangladesh in the SAFF U19 Championship in Nepal and the women’s U17s against Thailand in the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers – all kicking off in the span of six hours.

September 1-10: SAFF U16 Championship (Thimphu, Bhutan)

Newly-appointed head coach Ishfaq Ahmed will lead India’s title defence at the SAFF U16 Championship at the picturesque Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan from the first day of September. After extensive scouting in five zones, the freshly-assembled batch of probables has been training in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, since mid-July. India are drawn with Bangladesh and Nepal in Group A of the tournament, with the top two teams progressing to the semi-finals.

India’s fixtures at the SAFF U16 Championship:

September 1: Bangladesh vs India – Group A (14:30 IST, Thimphu)
September 5: India vs Nepal – Group A (14:30 IST, Thimphu)
September 7: Semi-final (14:30 or 18:30 IST, Thimphu)
September 10: Final (17:30 IST, Thimphu)

September 6-12: AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 Qualifiers (Dalian, China PR)

Having recently been named the AIFF Men’s Coach of the Year, Clifford Miranda will now hope to secure India’s first-ever ticket to the AFC U23 Asian Cup. 

After the opening fixture against neighbours Maldives at the Dalian Sports Centre Stadium, the task will get significantly tougher with hosts China PR and the UAE in the final two games of Group G. The group winners and four best runners-up across 11 groups will make up the cast of 16 at the final tournament in Qatar next year, which also acts as the AFC qualifiers for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024.

India’s fixtures at the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers:

September 6: India vs Maldives (Time TBD, Dalian)
September 9: China PR vs India (Time TBD, Dalian)
September 12: UAE vs India (Time TBD, Dalian)

September 7-10: 49th King’s Cup (Chiang Mai, Thailand)

The first half of 2023 was a glorious one for the Indian senior men’s team, who emerged champions of all three competitions they participated in. Eager to replicate their fine form in foreign soil, Igor Stimac’s side will land in northern Thailand to take part in the 49th King’s Cup during FIFA’s September international match window.

The Blue Tigers, who won bronze the last time they played the King’s Cup in 2019, which was also Stimac’s debut tournament, will be joined by Iraq, Lebanon and hosts Thailand in the 2023 edition. The tournament, the draw for which is yet to be confirmed, will be conducted in a knockout format, with the semi-finals taking place on September 7, and the third-place match and the final scheduled for September 10.

India’s fixtures at the 49th King’s Cup:

September 7: India vs TBD – Semi-final (16:00 or 19:00 IST, Chiang Mai)
September 10: India vs TBD – Third-place Play-off or Final (16:00 or 19:00 IST, Chiang Mai)

September 19-23: AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Indonesia 2024 Qualifiers Round 2 (Buriram, Thailand)

In April, the Indian women’s U17 team broke new ground by topping their Round 1 group and making it to Round 2 of the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers for the first time. Led by AIFF Women’s Coach of the Year Priya PV, the Young Tigresses have been in camp in Indore since the first week of July. India are placed alongside Korea Republic, IR Iran and hosts Thailand in Group A. The top two teams will book their berth at the final tournament to be held in Indonesia in April 2024.

India’s fixtures at the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers Round 2:

September 19: Korea Republic vs India (15:00 IST, Buriram)
September 21: India vs Thailand (19:00 IST, Buriram)
September 23: IR Iran vs India (15:00 IST, Buriram)

September 19-October 7: 19th Asian Games (Hangzhou, China)

India’s much-anticipated Asian Games football campaign will get underway with the men’s team’s high-profile clash against hosts China at the Huanglong Sports Centre Stadium on September 19, four days before the opening ceremony. Indian football teams will be competing in the continental quadrennial event for the first time since Incheon 2014.

Men’s head coach Igor Stimac has named a strong squad for the Asian Games, with Chhetri, Jhingan and Sandhu the highlights among a vibrant group of U23 boys. Bangladesh and Myanmar are the men’s other two opponents as they will hope to qualify for the round of 16 as the group winners or one of the four best runners-up.

The Indian women’s team have already begun their preparations for the Asian Games under head coach Thomas Dennerby in Bhubaneswar from the first week of August. The Blue Tigresses have been drawn in a three-team Group B alongside Thailand and Chinese Taipei and will play their matches in Wenzhou, a city situated 300 kilometres from Hangzhou. The group winners and three best runners-up will make it to the last eight.

India’s fixtures at the 19th Asian Games:

September 19: China vs India – Men’s Group A (17:00 IST, Hangzhou)
September 21: India vs Bangladesh – Men’s Group A (13:30 IST, Xiaoshan)
September 21: Chinese Taipei vs India – Women’s Group B (17:00 IST, Wenzhou)
September 24: Myanmar vs India – Men’s Group A (17:00 IST, Xiaoshan)
September 24: India vs Thailand – Women’s Group B (17:00 IST, Wenzhou)
September 27 or 28: Men’s Round of 16
September 30: Women’s Quarter-final
October 1: Men’s Quarter-final
October 3: Women’s Semi-final
October 4: Men’s Semi-final
October 6: Women’s Gold/Bronze medal match
October 7: Men’s Gold/Bronze medal match

September 21-30: SAFF U19 Championship (Kathmandu, Nepal)

The second age-group men’s SAFF tournament of the month will see India travel to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu to take on Bangladesh and Bhutan in Group B. The tournament will be held in the same format as the U16 one, with the top two sides going through to the semi-finals. The Blue Colts will look to defend their title from last year when it was held as an U20 competition in Bhubaneswar. The opening game against Bangladesh will be a rematch of the final from 2022.

India’s fixtures at the SAFF U19 Championship:

September 21: Bangladesh vs India – Group B (13:15 IST, Kathmandu)
September 25: India vs Bhutan – Group B (17:15 IST, Kathmandu)
September 27: Semi-final (13:15 or 17:15 IST, Kathmandu)
September 30: Final (17:15 IST, Kathmandu)

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