Spreading the beautiful game across different states is one of the key objectives in Vision 2047, and the Federation has begun that process by taking the Hero Santosh Trophy to newer heights. The Hero Santosh Trophy is now on a revival path, with the tournament's semi-finals and final set to be hosted abroad for the first time – in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The-aiff.com will be following the progress of the four semi-finalists and other events around the Hero Santosh Trophy closely in a series of stories.
AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: The Hero Santosh Trophy is a tournament steeped in history, and as it ventures into newer territories, that of Riyadh Saudi Arabia, where the semi-finals, 3rd place match, and final will be held. The Federation, with it’s new strategic roadmap illuminated by Vision 2047, is on a path to revive the Hero Santosh Trophy, something that Senior Men’s National Team head coach Igor Stimac feels is the need of the hour.
“The Hero Santosh Trophy has traditionally been the most passionate tournament in the country, and I hope this is something that brings passion, emotion, and competition between the state associations. That’s why it is always exciting,” said Stimac. “Santosh Trophy is something we need to rebuild in a way that it becomes the most important tournament in our country.”
From 36 states in the Group Stage, 10 progressed to the Final Round in Odisha, with Services and Railways joining with direct entry. The four best teams from the Final Round will now play the semi-finals and final at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
“It’s amazing how everything has been organised for these matches to be played in Saudi Arabia. It’s an amazing opportunity for all the teams that would play in the final stages of the tournament,” said Stimac. “I feel that it would serve as a great initial exposure for the players. They have some great infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, and some great pitches. This is the perfect opportunity for them to show how well they can do.”
Over the years, the Senior Men’s National Team has seen many players come through from the Hero Santosh Trophy. The likes of Jeje Lalpekhlua, Manvir Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad are just a few examples in recent years. If one goes back to the times when it was the pinnacle of all domestic competitions, the Santosh Trophy boasted of international stars aplenty.
Now with players outside the Hero ISL and the Hero I-League getting a chance to showcase themselves in this legacy competition, Stimac feels that the opportunity is rife for the taking, from the perspective of the players.
“Although the Santosh Trophy has changed in regards to which player can play, it’s still very important for the players who are not in the I-League or ISL,” said Stimac. “It’s a platform for them to show their technical and tactical abilities. Tomorrow they can be scouted by an ISL or I-League club and then go on to play for them, which would bring them to the attention of the national coach.
“The Santosh Trophy is ultimately helping the national team coach, and I hope that it will keep giving us more names in the ISL and I-League in the future,” he said. “I invite everyone to come and support the teams.”