Six under 15 teams from Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal are in the country to play the second edition of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-15 Women’s championship at the Changlingmithang stadium, Thimphu.
At the pre press conference held in Thimphu yesterday, the coaches and team captains from six countries said that SAFF U-15 Women’s championship 2018 would be the toughest championship.
Of the six countries, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are taking part in the championship for the first time.
Bhutan is hosting the 10-day championship for the first time.
Bhutan’s coach Song Jung Lee said the championship is important for the women of Bhutan. “I wanted to prepare for a longer time but the situation of women’s football in the country is not as good as the men’s. However, we are excited and I am looking forward to the match against India. We expect to reach the semi-final this year,” he said.
Kinzang Dema who would be leading Bhutan’s U-15 team in the championship said that the team trained hard for about a year. “We are expecting a better result that would prove the efforts we made in the training.”
Most players in the squad have played in the previous edition and the coach has brought in several new talents to strengthen the squad.
Bhutan will play first match against Sri Lanka on August 11.
Defending champions, Bangladesh was the first away team to reach the country for the championship. After winning the inaugural championship last year, the team went on to win another four nation championship held in Hong Kong.
Bangladesh’s coach Golam Rabbani Choton said the team expects to defend the title. “India is a good team and Bhutan as a host team will be a very strong team. Almost all the teams are equally strong and the tournament will be one of the competitive competitions in the region.”
He said that the team would enter the championship with high confidence after playing several international matches and competitions.
The team has 18 players who were in the squad that won the inaugural edition last year and include few new faces.
Ahead of their first match against Pakistan today, Bangladesh’s team captain Maria Manda said the team hopes to give their best. “We have a good combined team and have played several international matches.”
“However it will be challenging to play in high altitude with different weather conditions,” said Golam Rabbani Choton.
India’s Coach Firmin D’Souza said his team is aware about the type of competition they are in. India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan are placed in same pool.
India will play Bhutan on August 13. The coach said Bhutan would be a tough opponent. “They have favorable conditions because they play at such conditions. It’s a home match for them but we will put in our best to win the match.”
Following the lifting of ban on Pakistan from international soccer in March this year, the country will play its first international match in Bhutan.
FIFA had barred Pakistan’s national and clubs from playing international soccer citing “undue third-party interference” in Pakistan Football Federation as the reason.
The last international match Pakistan played was against Yemen in World Cup qualifier in 2015.
Pakistan’s coach, Mohamed Rashid said the team was pleased to participate in the championship after three years ban from FIFA. “We hope to learn something from the tournament as we have a young squad.”
In the opening of the championship today, Pakistan will face Bangladesh in pool B 7pm at and India will play Sri Lanka in pool A 4pm.