India will be playing a tri-nation friendly tournament in March against Myanmar and the Kyrgyz Republic in the capital of Manipur, Imphal. The games will take place during the March FIFA International Window. The matches will be played on 22, 24, and 26 March.
The announcement for the tournament was made by Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh on Monday at an event also attended by All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Kalyan Chaubey and secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran.
“It is a great initiative by the AIFF leadership that we are getting to host international friendly matches in Manipur for the first time in history. From our end, I can assure everyone that the government of Manipur will do everything to provide the best facilities and facilitate the successful organisation of the tournament,” Biren Singh said.
“Manipur has been a significant contributor in Indian football scene and we are grateful that the AIFF management has also taken the step towards spreading the game to different parts of the country. Manipur has provided many international players for the national team. It is indeed an honour to host the tournament and further encourage our players and sports enthusiasts.”
Biren also requested the AIFF’s assistance in establishing a top-class academy in the state. “I would also like to request the AIFF for its assistance in establishing a football academy of global standards in Manipur, where we can further nurture the talented boys and girls from the state and set their course for further development.”
This will be the first time that the India senior national team will be playing in Imphal.
The venue for the games is the Khuman Lampak Stadium, which has over the years hosted many I-League games and also group stage games of the prestigious Durand Cup in August 2022. Established in 1999, the stadium has a capacity of 35,000.
“We all are aware of football’s popularity in Manipur. The state has produced a huge number of footballers, both men and women, but never before has a national team’s match been organised in the state,” AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey said. “Having launched Vision 2047 recently, our aim is to take quality football to the furthest corners of the country. Manipur’s vibrant football culture makes them deserving hosts, and so they have been given charge of hosting the senior national team’s matches.”
The Blue Tigers last played on home soil in June 2022, when they topped their group to secure qualification for the 2024 AFC Asian Cup, defeating the likes of Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong. The upcoming friendlies will be part of a series of matches that India will play in the FIFA International windows to prepare for next year’s Asian Cup.
Head coach Igor Stimac expressed excitement at the forthcoming games saying, “It will be great to play a few friendly matches at home again. We now have enough time to check our opponents’ form and formulate our plans accordingly.
“These games should serve us well as we prepare for the Asian Cup. Hopefully we can start the year with a few good results,” he added. “I hope all our boys will maintain good form and stay injury free in the next few weeks until we get together.”