The semifinals and final of the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy will be held between March 1 and 4 at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the national federation announced on Thursday.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran told a press conference here that the dates have been fixed after consultation with their Saudi Arabian counterparts.
“This is a great moment for Indian football, as the four states that make it to the semifinals will get to fight for the Santosh Trophy title in Saudi Arabia,” Prabhakaran said.
He pointed out that the incentive to play in Saudi Arabia would make the Santosh Trophy final round, beginning here on Friday, an even more interesting and competitive event.
“The battle for the last four is likely to be an intense one, and we all hope that the fight will go down to the wire to book a spot on the international stage, which will be the first time since 1941, when the Santosh Trophy was launched as a six-venue tournament with the final being played in Kolkata,” said Prabhakaran.
“The Santosh Trophy is central to our plans in development of football across the country, as we look to improve the conditions for all our State FAs to make bigger contributions in taking Indian football forward.
“Helping out Member Associations is central to our plans for long term growth, as we have charted out last month in Vision 2047, and these are just baby steps towards a much larger goal.” Prabhakaran also spoke at length about the development of football across the country, something that has been presented by the national federation in the Vision 2047 document earlier this year.
In the final rounds of the Santosh Trophy, 12 teams have been divided into two groups of six each. The teams will play each other in a round robin format in the group. The top two teams from each group will become the first teams in the Santosh Trophy to play on foreign soil, once they move to Riyadh for the semifinals and final.