The Indian men’s national football team is set to play in the Merdeka Cup 2023 in the October FIFA international window, at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Merdeka Cup or Pestabola Merdeka is held to commemorate the Independence Day of Malaysia. The competition bears the Malay word for independence.
It was one the oldest international football tournaments in Asia – until it was stopped in 2013 – and one of the most prestigious ones in the continent. India has seen some of its stars of the Golden Era, namely P. K. Banerjee and Tulsidas Balaram, shine in that tournament.
The Merdeka Tournament was once regarded as the ‘Grand Old Lady of Asia’ where top teams from around the world would compete. It has seen participation of Ghana, Czech Republic and Morocco participate from outside Asia but the host, Malaysia, remains the most successful team here with 10 titles.
The Blue Tigers will face the host, Malaysia, in the semifinal and will have a chance to face Lebanon in a third straight final, which faces Palestine in the other semifinal.
India has finished as the runner-up in the tournament twice, in 1959 and 1964, and last participated here in 2001 where it was knocked out in the grouped stages.
“When we were in Malaysia a few months back, it was finalised that India will be part of the Merdeka Cup whenever it happens,” Shaji Prabhakaran, the Secretary General of the All India Football Federation told Sportstar.
“Merdeka has an emotional connection with India. Whenever India participated in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, it took the Indian flag higher. And so, when Merdeka starts again, we would like to be there and give more competitive exposure to our players. And that way our team can also grow,” he added.
Merdeka Cup 2023 ScheduleSemifinal 1: October 13 – Palestine vs Lebanon – 2:30 pm
All matches will be played at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur
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