AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: It has been a decade since the Merdeka Tournament, Malaysia’s prestigious international football competition that began all the way back in 1957, has been held. It has been even longer since India were a part of it. Twenty-two years, to be precise.
All of that is about to change, on October 13, 2023, when India take on hosts Malaysia at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, in what will be the 32nd meeting between the two sides. All of this, however, is the result of personal efforts by AIFF President Mr Kalyan Chaubey, who requested his FA Malaysia counterpart, Dato Haji Hamidin bin Haji Mohd, to consider India’s entry in the next edition of the Merdeka.
The Malaysian FA President promptly accepted the proposal and made sure India returned to play the iconic tournament, where India once played some memorable matches, including runners-up finishes in 1959 and 1964.
Mr Chaubey, after the announcement of the Draw for the 2023 edition of the Merdeka Tournament, said, “I am very happy that the Men’s National Team will be playing in the Merdeka Tournament for the 18th time in October this year. India have had a glorious past in this tournament, where we have also finished as runners-up and third place in the past on more than one occasion. I hope that the Blue Tigers will put in a good show in this edition as well.
“This is an extremely crucial stage for our team, as there are only a few months left for the AFC Asian Cup early next year. I am sure the Merdeka Tournament will serve as a good outing for them to prepare for the bigger challenges ahead,” said Mr Chaubey.
“We will face Malaysia in our first match, and possibly also play against Lebanon or Palestine in the second. All our opponents are good teams, and these matches will go a long way in helping us prepare our team better,” the AIFF President said.
Legendary central defender Jo Paul Ancheri, who led the team when India last played the Merdeka in 2001, was delighted with the development.
"India returning to play the Merdeka after 22 years is a piece of great news. I congratulate AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey for making it possible. I have played in Merdeka and know how competitive the tournament is. It will help India a great deal in preparing for the Asian Cup campaign ahead," said Ancheri from his Kerala home.