Malaysia FA announce dates for Merdeka Cup
India are two times runners-up of the competition.
The Football Association of Malaysia has confirmed that the Merdeka Cup will be held in October. The tournament will be played at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, from October 14-17.
India are set to be one of the participants of the Merdeka Cup. They will be facing the hosts (Malaysia), Palestine and Lebanon. It’ll be a round-robin format tournament in which every team faces each other. The two sides with the most points at the end of the round-robin stages will move on to the final – which will take place on October 17. The entire fixture schedule is expected to be released sometime before October.
The Merdeka Cup was last held back in 2014, where teams mostly played their U-23 sides. It has not been held since and is only being revived now, with an attempt to bring the competition back to its former glory.
Unlike previous editions, where as many as eight teams participated, this time the cup will be limited to fewer teams.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) ensured India’s participation in this tournament to grant Igor Stimac’s wishes for India to play more competitive games this year. This is done in view of the AFC Asian Cup next year and to get the Blue Tigers better prepared for that tournament.
India’s history at the Merdeka Cup
The Indian national football team has a distinct connection to the Merdeka Cup. The first time they took part in this historic Asian competition was way back in 1959. Under iconic manager Syed Abdul Rahim, the Blue Tigers defeated Singapore and Hong Kong – with the late, great Tulsidas Balaram also scoring against the former side.
However, India just fell short of winning the title and finished the competition as runners-up behind the champions, Malaysia (known as Malaya at the time). The tournament changed its format after that, with the round-robin stages followed up with a final.
India returned to Malaysia to participate in the Merdeka Cup in 1964. They again went all the way into the final where Burma ended up defeating them by a narrow margin – with the Blue Tigers finishing as runners-up yet again.
The Blue Tigers also participated in the Merdeka Cup in the 1970s, but their trips to Malaysia became less frequent since then. However, the AIFF built up a strong bond with the Malaysia Football Association and accepted their request to once again play in the historic tournament as it gets restarted after being last played in 2014.
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