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Sunil Chhetri and boys win 9th SAFF title; give viable reasons to celebrate Indian Football

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The Indian Men’s Football team won the SAFF Championship 2023 title after beating Kuwait 5-4 in a thrilling penalty shootout at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.

India vs Kuwait Final Match

India won two tournaments on the trot as the Men’s Football team won their 9th SAFF Championship 2023 in 14 editions. Last month, India clinched clinching the Intercontinental Cup after defeating Lebanon.

In regulation time, Shabaib Al Khaldi gave early lead to Kuwait. However, the newly-crowned AIFF Player of the Year, Lallianzuala Chhangte, equalised for India in the 39th minute. In the second half, none of the teams could net the ball that led to a 1-1 end of the regulation time. The extra time also went goalless, which resulted the final to come down to penalties.

India were up 5-4 in the penalties, when Kuwait’s captain Hajjeia missed the decisive spotkick. The stands exploded and Indian players were all out on the field. Later the players took Sunil Chhetri on their shoulders and celeberated with the fans.

En route to the final, the Indian football team finished the group stage with wins over Pakistan and Nepal while drawing against Kuwait. They beat Lebanon in the semi-finals.

Win against Kuwait- Why Indians need to cheer?

The win against Kuwait in the final was important for India. Though Kuwait is placed lower in FIFA ranking than India who are now placed 100th, yet Kuwait had a proficient Football tradition. Kuwait was one of Asia’s major football force during 1970s to 2000s and also  played in the World Cup in 1982. In the Asian Cup, Kuwait reached the final in 1976 and won the tournament in 1980. Kuwait’s 20–0 win over Bhutan in 2000 is one of the biggest ever victory in international football.

But several suspensions took a toll on their FIFA ranking. On October 30 2007, Kuwait was first suspended by FIFA from all participation in international football, on the grounds of governmental interference in the national football association. he ban lasted less than 2 weeks. On 24 October 2008, Kuwait was again suspended because of its failure to hold the General Assembly elections. FIFA provisionally lifted its suspension on December 22 2008. On 16 October 2015, Kuwait was suspended for the third time as FIFA did not recognize the new sports law in the country. The suspension was eventually lifted on 6 December 2017, after Kuwait’s adoption of a new sports law.

By this time, the team had fallen from the 139th place to the 189th place in the FIFA ranking. It failed to progress from the group stage of the 2011 and 2015 AFC Asian Cups.

So India’s match against Kuwait was not at all an unparalleled fight. Though, Kuwait is now ranked 141st and India is at 100th, yet both the teams can be considered as equal. By this win, Sunil Chhetri’s team can now be considered as one of the fast emerging teams in Asian Football and that surely deserves a loud cheer. 

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PoulomiKundu started her career in 2000 as a freelance journalist in Hindustan Times. Soon after she was selected an intern in Zee News, Kolkata. After her post- graduation in English, Poulomi joined the leading television production house of eastern India, Rainbow Productions. She was a journalist in Khas Khobor, a Bengali news magazine programme in Doordarshan and also headed the post production department of another programme, Khas Kolkata. In 2004, Poulomi moved to Delhi as a creative writer in an advertising agency, Brand Stewards Pvt. Ltd. In 2005, she again shifted her base for a better opportunity and that in Mumbai. There she got the job in Raa Media Pvt Ltd. as an associate director of two programmes for Doordarshan-Yuva and Paisa Vasool. In the meantime, she also wrote features in DNA as a freelancer. Poulomi directs promotional videos, develops scripts for films for Corporate and NGOs. But an ardent sports lover, Poulomi always had an urge to contribute somewhere in the field of sports. Her love for sports started from an early age when she played gully cricket and football for local teams. Academics and professional hazards sometimes took her away from her passion, but it never died in her. She always nurtured the never-ending dream. So she materialized her dream in the form of ‘SPORTSAVOUR’. It is an online sports portal that serves sports with the tagline ‘For the indigenous, unconventional, unknown’.

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