The Indian football federation released its calendar for this year about the competitions planned.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has given a preview of the expected competitions from Indian football in 2023 by releasing its own calendar. This has all the expected competitions planned for the year, both at the national and club level.
The major plan for the AIFF appears to be giving the players more playing opportunities and better preparation for the national games as well. The same type of method will be followed for both the Men’s and Women’s structure in an impressive development after a sense of stagnation in Indian football over the last year.
So here we look at the five highlights from the AIFF’s 2023 calendar.
5. India U-23 team to play SAFF Championship
India had a pretty good run at the SAFF Championship in 2021, winning the competition in Nepal. However, there will be changes to India’s participation from this time out. It appears that the AIFF is reverting back to the decision to send the U-23 players to this tournament. This was done during the Stephen Constantine era too.
The SAFF Championship will happen in June, a month after the domestic scene ends. That has forced the AIFF to send the younger players to the competition. This can mean good things for the U-23 stars, who will be given more responsibilities and get better exposure by playing together.
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4. Consistent International Friendly Window for The Women
The AIFF appears determined to improve the level of exposure that Indian Women’s Football gets under its changed structure. In one impressive change, there seems a bigger spotlight placed on the Indian Women’s National team for the 2023 AIFF calendar. There are three separate FIFA International Friendly Window periods set for the Indian Women’s National Team.
These will happen in February, March, April and July – when the Blue Tigresses will play friendly games. Moreover, the senior women’s team will face Jordan and Uzbekistan in March in planned friendly games. They will also play in the Asian Games, The Gold Cup as well as the Women’s Olympic 2024 qualifiers later this year. So one can expect to see more of the Indian women’s team this year too.
3. Intercontinental Cup returns in June
The Intercontinental Cup replaced the Nehru Cup in 2017. It happened every year from 2017-2019 before Covid-19 forced it to be wrapped up from 2020 onwards. Well, the AIFF now aspires to bring it back later this year and it will be held in India as well. As per the AIFF calendar, the Intercontinental cup will happen from June 8 to June 18.
It will take place after the end of the domestic season. Even though details of the participating teams, venue and format are yet to be revealed, this will be refreshing news for fans. India will hope to regain the intercontinental cup in the next edition, after finishing 4th in the 2019 edition.
2. Dedicated 7-10 day camp before international break
The AIFF appears to put its money where its mouth is in ensuring the Men’s senior team is better prepared for international games. As per the 2023 AIFF calendar, the Men’s national team will have dedicated training camps before every International friendly window. These camps will be 7-10 days long, giving players a lot of time to re-adapting to the international level under Igor Stimac. This is good news for the Croatian gaffer, who gets more time to prepare his squad for the games.
There are four such dedicated camps planned for this year, with the first one in March before the international window. Interestingly, this will be before the Super Cup in April, meaning the national team will get together for the first time this year in March. More than anything, these camps will be beneficial for players. It will make it easier for them to transition from clue football to the more challenging style under Ten Hag and tougher international games.
1. Parallel camps for India team in Asian Games and World Cup qualifiers
One of the objectives in AIFF’s roadmap was to bring a sense of linkage between the senior Indian Men’s team and the U-23 team in the near future. They seem to be executing that in 2023 itself. The AIFF’s calendar shows that the U-23 national team camp and the senior team’s camp will happen parallel in August. While the U-23 team will prepare for the U-23 Asian Cup 2024 qualifiers, which will happen in September, the national team will have a camp for the Asian Games.
The U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers in early September and Asian Games will be starting on 20 September. Because of that, perhaps some of the impressive U-23 players can be involved with the senior team too in the Asian Games. Igor Stimac & co have a busy period ahead in that August-September period where the preparation has to be the best for either of the India Men’s team to succeed in the September games.