SAFF Championship to be held in October, with three countries willing to replace Bangladesh as hosts.

The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship will be held in October, according to an agreement reached on a virtual meeting held between SAFF and member Football Associations on Friday.

Postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament will be slotted in the first week of October. Prior to this, the 13th edition had already been re-scheduled for two occasions in 2021 alone. The initial date was agreed to organize the tournament from August 31 to September 8. However, a meeting held prior to the latest set the dates from September 14 to 24.

With a surge in COVID cases and a strict lockdown in place, Bangladesh has been ruled out as the host. “All the countries want the tournament to be held this year,” said SAFF General Secretary Anwarul Haque Helal. “The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) has told us they cannot organize the tournament due to the COVID-19 situation.”

Similarly, three nations have expressed interest in hosting the tournament. With Nepal ready to take the baton at any time, India and Maldives have emerged as new contendors. Maldives has expressed its interest to organizing the tournament jointly with Sri Lanka. SAFF will decide the hosts by the first week of August, as per the meeting.

SAFF’s Congress held in 2019 had declared Bangladesh as the hosts of the 2020 SAFF Championship. Bangladesh, despite hosting the 2018 edition, was eager to celebrate Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s 100th birth anniversary with the tournament’s organization.

Ever since its inaugural edition in 1993, the SAFF Championship has been South Asia’s most coveted football tournament. India, with seven titles is the most successful nation, followed by defending champions Maldives.

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