Cricketing fraternity lauds India’s record 9th SAFF Championship win
5 July, 2023 | Muskan Menghani
"A nail biting finish sees the Blue Tigers triumph over Kuwait. A huge victory for Indian football as we are the 9 time champions of the SAFF.'' tweeted BCCI secretary Jay Shah
The Indian men’s football team won the ninth South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship after edging out Kuwait in a thrilling final at Sri Kanteerava Outdoor Stadium. It turned out to be another proud day for the Indians. After saving Kuwait captain Khaled Hajiah’s crucial penalty in the shootout, India’s star goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu led the Blue Tigers to victory.
The 2021 SAFF Champions got off to a bad start in the championship match as Shabib Al Khaldi of Kuwait took the lead for his country in the 14th minute with a sweeping move to quiet the home crowd. Lallianzuala Chhangte, who came on in the 38th minute after an outstanding play by the Indians, quickly answered for Sunil Chhetri’s team, cancelling out the opening goal.
Both teams’ emotions were at their peak during the summit match as the players gave it their all to try and break the tie in the second half. The title match, however, was headed to the dreaded penalty shootout after 90 minutes because nothing could be decided between the two teams. Going into sudden death, the score was tied at 4-4. Both teams missed a penalty. To put pressure on the opposing captain Khaled Hajiah, who had made his way to the penalty spot, India’s wide receiver Naorem Mahesh Singh stepped up and converted the penalty.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, India’s standout player throughout the season, made a fine save to stop the Kuwait captain, India won its record-tying ninth SAFF Championship title, sending a packed Bangalore stadium into a frenzy. The Blue Tigers won the trophy for the ninth time in history after going undefeated during their journey to the final and without dropping a single match throughout the competition. The Indian cricket community praised Sunil Chettri’s team for their outstanding accomplishment while beaming with pride.