SAFF Championship 2023 / Date, format, schedule & participating teams / All things you must know

The 2022 Qatar FIFA world cup had it's end up at the end of the year 2022. The world football is slightly shifting to it's contemporary format i.e. club footballs & regional competitions. These all the footballing activities will be performed under the FIFA window. Though the excitements football fans could gain from the global competitions, they can't get from the regional competitions they do enjoy the actions of their own.

Every footballing nations have their own local tournaments, they participate in their regional tournaments, play international friendlies, participate in the invitational series as their own. 

Here in South Asia too, where football is followed tremendously they have their own regional competition named SAFF Championship which is the most awaited competition for the South Asian football fans.

What is SAFF Championship??

SAFF Championship is a regional football competition played between the men's national teams of South Asian nations. The competition is organized & governed by the SAFF-South Asian Football Federation, a common governing regional football body formed by the joint association of all 7 football federations from SAARC nations. The competition happens on every 2 years.

When is SAFF Championship 2023 ?

The 2023 SAFF Championship will be the 14th edition of the SAFF Championship which is going to take place in the mid of June 2023. Though the dates aren't out yet, AIFF on their 2023 FIFA Calendar have clearly mentioned that their U-23 team will participate in the competition between June 20-30.

Where is SAFF Championship 2023 happening ?

SAFF Championship has continuously been held in a centralized manner where the SAFF selects a host Member Association. The host Member Association suggests the stadium and city which upon confirmation of SAFF becomes the host city for the SAFF Championship. Upon which, the participating teams of the SAFF Member Associations travel to the host city to participate in the SAFF Championship. This time SAFF has invited to every interested nations in a Tender bid for the host. SAFF has mentioned January 2,2023 as the last date for the submission of tender documents.

Here are the dates for the bidding processes as stated by SAFF:

  • 2 January 2023:  Last date for submission of tender 
  • 9 January 2023: Clarifications sought with Tenderers 
  • 16 January 2023: Resubmission of tender
  • 23 January 2023: Evaluation of tenders
  • 30 January 2022: Selection of the best Tenderer 
  • 6 February 2022: Tender awarding and contract signing 

However Football Sri Lanka initially expressed their interest to bid for hosting the tournament, at the SAFF Executive Committee meeting on 17 October, 2021 in the Maldives.

Who are participating in the SAFF Championships 2023?

The SAFF Championship has always been held on a biannual basis (every two (2) years) which is participated by the senior men’s national team of all SAFF Member Associations. This time India will send their young U-23 team for this year SAFF Championships mentioned in the recent calendars from AIFF.

Participating teams:

  • India U-23
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Bangladesh
  • Srilanka
  • Bhutan
  • Pakistan

Why are India sending their U23 teams to 2023 SAFF?

Indian football federation wants their younger generations to get international experience. As India national men's team will busy in playing the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023 which starts from 8-18 June. 4 Teams from 3 different federations are invited for the competition to be hosted in India. Also AIFF are taking the competition as the 2024 AFC Asian U-23 Qualifiers  to be held from 4-12 September 2023 ( 3 months after the competition).

Indian U23 football team in SAFF Championships:

It's not the first time U23 Indian football are taking part in the competition, they have won the SAFF title back in 2009. But a team mostly made up of U-23 players lost to Maldives in the final of 2018 editions.

SAFF 2023 Competition Format 

The precise format and schedule of the SAFF Championship are yet to be approved and therefore cannot be confirmed. However, for information purposes only, the current proposed format of the SAFF Championship are as follows: 

  1. It will consist of seven (7) teams.
  2. It will have a group stage with two (2) groups, one with four (4) teams and another with three (3) teams.
  3. It will then be followed by a knock-out stage comprising two (2) semi-final Matches with two (2) top teams from each group.
  4. It will conclude with a final Match with the winners of the two (2) semi-final Matches. Therefore, the entire SAFF Championship may have a maximum of twelve (12) Matches.
Note: the above mentioned format is similar to that of 2018 SAFF Championships held at Dhaka, Bangladesh.

SAFF Championship 2023 Details:

The 2023 SAFF Championship will be the 14th edition of the SAFF Championship which is going to take place in the mid of June 2023. 

  • Date: Between June 20-30
  • Format: Single Round Robin
  • Participating nations: India, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan & Srilanka
  • Host: Srilanka (Probable)

Who is the current champion of SAFF?

India are the current champions of SAFF. They won Nepal in the final of 2021 SAFF Championships by 3-0 to lift the trophy for a record 8 times.

Has Nepal won SAFF Championships?

Winning the SAFF senior men's football competition has always been a dream for the Nepal National Football team. They were very close to their maiden trophy back in the 2021 last edition. Playing a draw with Bangladesh in the virtual semi-final Nepal reached their first ever SAFF final in 28 years of history under the coaching of Abdullah Almutairi.

In their 14th participation, Nepal has reached the last 4 i.e. semifinals for five times (1993, 1995, 2010 ,2013 & 2018). Before the 3rd place in 1993 was their best performance in the history of SAFF Championships.

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