The Bangabandhu SAFF Championship 2009 over, the new-look South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) wants to get into action in a bid to give South Asian football a big lift.
The activities of the SAFF were restricted to just six SAFF Championships -- a biennial competition of the men’s national teams of the region -- in 12 years since the first edition took place in Nepal back in 1997.
The new SAFF executive committee, under the leadership of Kazi Salahuddin, who is also the football chief of Bangladesh, however, has already planned to expand by means of development.
Salahuddin believes that with 1.5 billion people in the eight members of the SAFF, the region is bound to become a real strength in the continent if the right programmes are put in motion.
And under this guideline, Alberto Colaco, General Secretary of SAFF, submitted a plan to the SAFF executive committee which held a meeting in Dhaka on December 11.
The plans for 2010-11 was regarded as a complete prescription for development and Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam, who graced the meeting with his presence ensured the Asian football governing body’s support towards the cause.
“We are trying to achieve the goal of development in Asia and the SAFF region is doing extremely well. We want the focus not to be shifted from development and with hard work, it is possible to reach the Asian standard,” Hammam told in the meeting. “I also assure our strong support to the SAFF.”
The Indian under-23 team’s triumph in the Bangabandhu SAFF Championship has already exposed the weaknesses of the remaining seven national teams and it is heavily felt that without long-term development plans, the rest would be falling far behind of the biggest nation in the region.
The new competitions SAFF plans to host are a club competition at centralised venue, two youth meets and competitions for national and under-17 women’s teams.
“We plan to launch the SAFF club championship next year and the other tournaments will be held according to the plans. We want respect from the football world. We want to see ourselves in that category in the next two years,” Kazi Salahuddin told the bffonline.com.
AFC and SAFF vice-president Manilal Fernando asked the members of SAFF to send their observations to the SAFF secretariat and there would be further discussion in the next SAFF meeting in February in Colombo during the AFC Challenge Cup finals.
Alberto Colaco, also the general secretary of All India Football Federation, explained while his presentation at the meeting that the club championship should be held in alternate years with at least six or maximum eight teams.
“In case we can’t make the numbers, the host nation would be allowed to field two teams,” Colaco told.
“The men’s under-16 and -18 youth competitions should be held at least two months before the AFC Youth Championship qualifiers that are being played every alternate year. Our teams have not fared well and the regional tournament will not only give the teams exposure but also make the teams’ preparation a lot smoother,” he said adding that two teams from Asean and Central and West Asia would be invited.
The women’s under-17 competition will also follow the same guideline and the women’s national teams would compete once every two years.
Apart from competition, other main development areas are administration, education and media and marketing with focus on courses for coaches, match officials and exchange of referees in the region.
The SAFF, which has decided to host the seventh SAFF Championship in India with Nepal as an alternate choice if India fails to host it like 2009, also has two urgent matters in hand: to have a new constitution in lines of FIFA model statutes and strike a new sponsorship deal for its competitions as the World Sport Group era comes to an end.