By Debayan Mukherjee
Kolkata, May 16: The SAFF Championship football tourment is in hot water after India, one of the participants, requested the competition's organisers to postpone the meet by a few months due to the Indian Super League (ISL).
The 12th edition of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) meet -- played among south Asian tions including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- is scheduled to take place in Bangladesh this year from December 25.
But after India, the defending champions and the most successful team of the biennial tourment, put in a request for postponement, stating their uvailability during the period, the organisers are mulling pushing the meet to May.
"India is saying that because of the Under-17 World Cup, the ISL is starting late. So, the ISL will end late and not in December. Then they said there can be a merger (of competing ISL and I-League) and thus the number of teams can increase," SAFF General Secretary Anwarul Huq told IANS ahead of Mohun Bagan's AFC Cup Group E game against Bengaluru FC here on Wednesday.
"It (SAFF Cup) was supposed to start on December 25 and end on January 5 or 6. India wants it to be shifted to May. They said because of the World Cup their scheduling has been delayed," he added.
"I got the letter a few days ago from Kushal Das (All India Footall Federation's General Secretary). Let me talk to the sponsors now whether they will agree or not," Anwarul said.
Talks are on between the AIFF and its commercial and marketing partners IMG-R for expanding the ISL to 11 teams with the franchise-based tourment even inviting bids for more teams to take part.
The AIFF said it was hopeful that the SAFF would honour its request.
"This being a special year with India hosting the Under-17 World Cup, we have requested SAFF to organise their tourment in May next year. I hope they would honour our request," AIFF Vice President Subrata Dutta told IANS.
India is also hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup from October 6-28.
"I have to also discuss it with our marketing agent. I am in touch with them. I have told them about the problem. They will now talk to Suzuki, who are the sponsors of the tourment," Anwarul said.
"If India don't play, they will not come forward. They want all teams to participate. Now we have seven teams and we will invite one more team. So, it will be an eight-team affair," he added.
India beat Afghanistan in the fil 2-1 to bag their seventh title in 2015.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)