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India U-18 MNT conquer maiden SAFF U-18 Championship title

India U-18 MNT players and officials celebrating their maiden SAFF U-18 Championship title. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)
India U-18 MNT players and officials celebrating their maiden SAFF U-18 Championship title. Photo courtesy: AIFF Media

The India U-18 National Team lifted the SAFF U-18 Championship for the first time when they defeated Bangladesh U-18 2-1 in the final in Kathmandu today (Sunday, September 29, 2019).

India surged into the lead as early as the 2nd minute when Vikram Pratap Singh sped past his marker and banged it in. The match-winner came in late in injury time when the nippy Ravi Bahadur Rana scored off a screamer from about 30 yards. Yeasin Arafat reduced the margin for Bangladesh in the 40th minute.

“I had maintained that it will take a moment of brilliance to end this SAFF Championship, and it was fitting that Ravi finished if off with a wonderful strike,” Head Coach Floyd Pinto stated moments after the final whistle. “We were not just the best footballing team in the tournament, but also the most effective team. I am really happy for the boys. They earned it,” he added. “The sacrifices, and the commitment of the boys was exemplary.”

India’s Ninthoinganba Meetei was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament.

All India Football Federation President Mr. Praful Patel congratulated everyone in his message.

“Congratulations to everyone,” Mr. Patel said. “The team improved with every match. It’s double delight for Indian youth teams especially after the U-16 qualified to AFC Championships last week. Keep it up.”

Mr. Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF in his message said: “The SAFF U-18 Championship had been eluding us. Congratulations to everyone. This triumph will add confidence prior to the AFC U-19 Qualifiers in November which is the ultimate test.”

The victory makes it sweeter with the U-15 National Team having lifted the SAFF U-15 Championship beating Bangladesh in the final in August 2019. While the U-16 National Team went on to qualify for the AFC U-16 Championships, the U-19 Team will play the AFC Qualifiers in November in their quest to qualify for the AFC Finals.

“This is going to give us a huge boost for the AFC Championship, and make us more confident as we prepare for it. Hopefully, we will be able to kick-off AFC Qualifiers in a good manner,” Floyd explained. “I am very thankful to AIFF and SAI for their help in the exposure tours all throughout, and look forward to their support.”

Meanwhile, both teams were reduced to 10-men each in the 22nd minute when Gurkirat Singh, and Md Fahim were given marching orders following a melee. Bangladesh were further reduced to 9 men in the 40th minute when rival skipper Yeasin was booked for a second yellow card for his illegitimate celebration following the equaliser.

(AIFF Media)