March 15 – The secretary general of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Shaij Prabhakaran has defended his organisation’s decision to return the Santosh Trophy to India after playing the last edition in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“We wanted to disrupt the way we were doing things,” Prabhakaran told Insideworldfootball.
“We wanted to bring back the glory of the Santosh Trophy because it has contributed to the growth of football in India but in the last ten years or so, it lost its shine. We wanted to see how to do something different. We thought it was better to do it outside the country and that’s how we planned it. It worked out as it attracted great interest and the competitive level this time had not been seen in a decade.”
Prabhakaran brushed off criticisms who claimed the tournament should not have been shifted away from India.
Before the establishment of a national league, the Santosh Trophy was considered the top domestic honour in Indian football. Despite empty stadiums in the Saudi capital for the final stages of the competition, the tournament did achieve enough media coverage and exposure according to Prabhakaran.
“We will do something different (next season),” said Prabhakaran. “We want to keep improving. Something will be added next season.”
Prabhakaran dismissed claims that staging the tournament in Saudi Arabia was a tit-for-tat after India withdrew last year from the bidding race for the 2027 Asian Cup, leaving the Arab Kingdom as the sole candidate. In four years’ time, the continental championship will return for the first time to Saudi Arabia since 1996.
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com