India wins first-ever women’s South Asian Football Federation Championship
It’s been an historic two weeks in Bangladesh. The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship has been played every two years on the men’s side since its first tournament in 1993. This year, the the first-ever SAFF Women’s Championship was held, and it took place in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The tournament began Dec. 12 with eight teams split into two groups, and it ended Thursday, Dec. 23, when the Indian Women’s National Team beat Nepal, 1-0, on a goal by the tournament’s leading scorer, Sasmita Malik. She scored 14 goals, including three hat tricks, in the five games India played.
Of the eight teams in the SAFF Championship, only three are ranked in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings – India (56), Nepal (116), and Maldives (121). India won Group A, beating Bhutan (18-0), Sri Lanka (7-0), and hosts Bangladesh (6-0), and then beat Pakistan, 8-0, in the semifinals before narrowly beating Nepal to claim the championship at Cox’s Bazar Stadium. Malik scored in the 65th minute to give India the win. The Indian women did not allow a goal in the tournament, outscoring its opponents, 40-0, in five games. Nepal, winners of Group B, beat the Maldives (6-0), Afghanistan (13-0), and Pakistan (12-0) in the group stage, and then beat Bangladesh, 3-0, in the semifinals. Nepal scored 34 goals and allowed only one, the lone goal in the championship game.
Every team in the tournament earned at least one point as Bhutan and Sri Lanka played to a 1-1 draw in their final match of Group A, and the Maldives and Afghanistan drew, 2-2, in their last game in Group B. This was Afghanistan’s first official international competition since the team began play in 2007. The Afghan women have only played seven games in their three-year existence, and three of those games were played during the SAFF Championships.