With 2023 just a day away, let’s have a quick recap of all the memorable events in the Indian Football calendar this year. From hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and AFC Women’s Asian Cup to getting banned by FIFA and qualifying for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. There have been a lot of events and many ups and downs along the way to relook from this year.
JANUARY – 2022
India hosted the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in the Maharashtra cities of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, and Pune. The tournament was played between the 20th of January and the 6th of February. Eleven of Asia’s best women’s national teams along with hosts India fought for the ultimate glory.
Although the matches were played with no fans in the stadiums, the games were widely watched since a lot of star players like Sam Kerr, Ji So-Yun, Saka Kumagai, and many other famed international players featured in the matches and it made the games exciting to see.
The Blue Tigresses drew goalless in their first game against Iran. After that, they were forced to exit the tournament on home soil without even playing the remaining two group-stage games as many players and staff in the team got infected with COVID-19 despite strict protocols and measures in place.
China, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Chinese Taipei, Australia, Vietnam, and Thailand had all made it to the quarterfinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Among them, only China, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines qualified for the semi-finals or the final four rounds.
In the semis, China defeated Japan, and South Korea defeated the Philippines to seal their place in the final. China, the record holders of the competition emerged as the winners once again as they defeated South Korea in the final by a 3-2 scoreline to clinch the AFC Women’s Asian Cup for the eighth time in their history.
MARCH – 2022
ISL League Winners’ Shield – In March, Jamshedpur FC defeated ATK Mohun Bagan by a goal to win the 2021/22 season ISL League Winners Shield. The scenario was such that the Mariners needed to win to keep their hopes alive whereas for the Red Miners a draw was enough. Midfielder Ritwik Das scored to give Jamshedpur FC an important win and the first major trophy in the club’s history.
ISL Final – After that, on the 20th of March, the ISL final was played between two-time runners-up Kerala Blasters FC and maiden finalist Hyderabad FC in Goa’s Fatorda Stadium. It was the first game in the past two seasons where the fans were allowed to watch the game in the stadium.
Sahil Tavora scored a wonder goal in the dying moments of the game canceling Rahul KP’s goal and taking the game to extra time and finally to the penalties where Hyderabad FC emerged victorious over Kerala Blasters after heroics from their veteran goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani in the shootout.
SAFF U-18 Women’s Championship – On 25th March, India won the 2022 SAFF U-18 Women’s Championship that was played in Jamshedpur. India lost but edged out in the goal difference over Bangladesh in the final game of the Round Robin Tournament which also had Nepal participating in it.
APRIL – 2022
AFC Champions League West Region Group Stages – Mumbai City FC was India’s representative in the group stages of the 2022 AFC Champions League. The Islanders were grouped along with Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab FC, UAE’s Al Jazira FC, and Iraq’s Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya FC (also known as Air Force Club).
In the first game, Mumbai City FC saw a 3-0 defeat to the hosts Al-Shabab FC. In the second game, Mumbai City FC made history by becoming the first Indian club to win a game in the AFC Champions League as they defeated Air Force Club Iraq by a superb late comeback.
In the third game, the Islanders saw a narrow 1-0 margin defeat to Al-Jazira. In the fourth game, Mumbai City FC drew goalless with Al-Jazira. In the fifth game, Mumbai witnessed a thumping 6-0 defeat against Al-Shabab FC.
But, in the final game, Mumbai City FC defeated Air Sports Club Iraq for the second time to get the maximum points ever achieved by an Indian club and to also finish second in a difficult and competitive group. The Islanders surprised everyone with their scintillating performance.
2022 Santosh Trophy – The main round or the final round of the 2022 Santosh Trophy was played in Mallapuram, Kerala from the 16th of April to the 2nd of May. 10 teams were divided into two groups of 5 teams each. The top two teams from each group progressed into the semi-finals.
In the semis, Kerala defeated Karnataka while on the other hand West Bengal defeated Manipur. In the final, hosts Kerala was up against record-holders West Bengal. West Bengal took the early lead at the beginning of extra time after the game was goalless till 90 minutes.
But, Kerala scored in the 117th minute to score the vital equalizer and take the game to the penalties where they won in the shootouts to claim the Santosh Trophy for the 7th time in their history.
Reliance Football Development League – The inaugural ISL Developmental League was hosted in Goa from 15th April and continued till 20th May 2022. It saw 7 ISL reserve teams and Reliance Football Young Champs (RFYC) team participate.
At the end of the league stage, Bengaluru FC won the first edition of the youth tournament. Kerala Blasters FC finished in second place. Champions Bengaluru FC and Runners-Up Kerala Blasters made it to the final tournament of the Next Gen Cup in the United Kingdom.
MAY – 2022
End of the I-League 21/22 season – On 14th May, Gokulam Kerala FC defeated second-placed Mohammedan SC by a 3-1 scoreline at Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium in their last game of the season to clinch the crown of Hero I-League for a second straight year running. The scenario was such that Mohammedan SC needed to win the game to be crowned champions.
After wrapping up their I-League season, the Malabarians headed straightaway to the AFC Cup Action as they faced the likes of fellow ISL club ATK Mohun Bagan, Basundhara Kings of Bangladesh, and Maziya S&RC of the Maldives. While Gokulam Kerala got a direct spot in the group stages, ATK Mohun Bagan had to come through the playoffs where they defeated Sri Lanka’s Blue Star FC and Bangladesh’s Dhaka Abahani Limited.
Gokulam Kerala FC started with a shocking result as they defeated group favorites ATK Mohun Bagan by a 4-2 scoreline in the opener, but the side from Kerala lost their two remaining games against the two South Asian clubs. Meanwhile, ATK Mohun Bagan thrashed Basundhara Kings 4-0 and Maziya S&RC 5-2 to qualify for the knockout stages of the AFC Cup courtesy of a better goal difference among all teams.
IWL 21/22 Season – The Hero IWL, which kicked off on 15th April, ended with a penultimate title decider in the final game of the season between holders Gokulam Kerala FC and Sethu FC. The game was played on 26th May and it ended up in a 3-1 win for Gokulam Kerala FC, which helped them retain their Hero IWL title.
June was massive for the Indian men’s national team as it had to play in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers in Kolkata. Hosts India had Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong in their group. India played quite a few friendly games this year against good teams like Bahrain, Belarus, and Jordan to prepare themselves for the qualifiers.
They were also scheduled to face Zambia but the match got canceled. Although it lost all of those international friendly matches, it was a good learning for the team.
In the opening game of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers, India comfortably defeated lowly-ranked Cambodia by 2 goals thanks to Sunil Chhetri’s brace. A goal from the penalty spot kick was awarded when winger Liston Colaco was tripped inside the penalty box by a Cambodian defender, and another astonishing header headed in courtesy of an accurate floated cross from the flank by Brandon Fernandes. In the second game, India was up against a well-known opposition in Afghanistan.
Both sides met twice in the world cup qualifiers and both games ended in a 1-1 draw. India scored the first goal around the 80th-minute mark thanks to Sunil Chhetri’s top-notch free-kick goal. But shortly afterward Afghanistan equalized with a header from the corner kick. In the final moments, Ashique gave a through pass to Sahal who shot it in the left corner and out of the goalie’s reach to win the game by 2-1 for India.
Ahead of the final game against Hong Kong, India’s spot in the final round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup was confirmed thanks to other matches going their way. Despite that team, India defeated Hong Kong by a 4-0 scoreline to make a statement, that they are coming for Asia.
Defender Anwar Ali started the scoring early in the game, while captain Sunil Chhetri added another goal at the end of the first half. In the final quarter of the game, strikers Manvir Singh and Ishan Pandita scored a goal each to complete their Asian Cup qualifiers on a memorable note in front of the jampacked Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
NextGen Cup 2022 – At the end of July, the ISL reserve league winners Bengaluru FC and runners-up Kerala Blasters went to the United Kingdom to play in a developmental and exposure tournament through an initiative by the Premier League and the Indian Super League called the NextGen Cup. It was contested for its third time. The first two seasons were held in India and more specifically in Mumbai.
The teams were divided into two groups of four teams each and the matches were played in London and West Midlands. All of them were aired live on the media streams of both the English Premier League and the Indian Super League. The teams also got to visit the premier league office and learn from the leagues’ legends about various stuff that will surely benefit them later on in their playing career.
The likes of Tottenham Hotspurs, Leicester City, West Ham United FC, Crystal Palace FC, and Nottingham Forrest were the representatives of the Premier League Stellenbosch FC of South Africa was also invited to take part in the competition. Although the scores were not that great from the Indian side’s perspective, it was certainly a great learning experience for the youngsters.
2022 SAFF U-20 Men’s Championship – On 5th August, India won the SAFF U-20 Men’s Championship in Bhubaneshwar by defeating Bangladesh 5-2 in the final after regulation time. It was sweet revenge for the Blue Tigers who saw a defeat to Bangladesh in the round-robin group stage earlier on in the competition and flashed second. Nepal, Maldives, and Sri Lanka also took part in the competition.
FIFA Suspends AIFF! – On the 15th of August, FIFA the governing body of football suspended the AIFF (All India Football Federation) for having third-party intervention in its administration called the committee of administrators (COA) after the Supreme Court decided to form a body to work on the day-to-day affairs of the AIFF, as former President Praful Patel and his corrupted administration was continuing the work beyond its said tenure and also the elections had not been held for a long time of over many years.
After getting suspended, the Supreme Court acted promptly to disband the COA at the earliest and to hold the elections. On 25th August exactly 10 days after the suspension was imposed, FIFA officially lifted its suspension imposed on the AIFF as the third-party body called COA was discontinued.
Durand Cup 2022 begins – On the 16th of August, one of the historical football competitions in India and also in Asia called the Durand Cup was restarted after a year’s absence. The matches were held across 3 states namely Assam, Manipur, and West Bengal.
The games were played in a group stage and then knockout format. 16 teams comprising ISL teams, I-League sides, and a couple of Service teams participated in this edition. The knockout stages were played in Kolkata across two venues.
On 2nd September the AIFF Presidential Elections were held. It was contested between former Goalkeeper turner Politician Kalyan Chaubey and Indian football legend Baichung Bhutia. It was Chaubey who became the new president after the end of the election polls calculation. He became the first AIFF president who was also a former professional footballer.
2022 SAFF Women’s Championship – India had a disastrous outing in the 2022 SAFF Women’s Championship in Nepal. The tournament which was played from the 6th to the 19th of September saw India, the record champions of the competition, fail to make it to the final.
India finished 2nd in their group which had Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The Blue Tigresses progressed into the semi-finals but lost out to hosts Nepal by a 1-0 scoreline.
Eventually, Bangladesh went on to become the champions of the South Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship for the first time in their history by defeating Nepal 3-1 in the final.
2022 SAFF U-17 Men’s Championship – On 4th September, India won the 2022 SAFF U-17 Men’s Championship in Sri Lanka by defeating Nepal in the final by a 4-0 scoreline. Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka were the other participants. India lost to Nepal and finished second in their group which also had Bhutan. After that the Blue Tigers progressed into the semifinals where they defeated Bangladesh by a 2-1 scoreline to qualify for the final against Nepal.
2022 Durand Cup Knockout Stages and Final – The Durand Cup knockout stages were ongoing in September. Two I-League clubs and six ISL clubs, qualified for the quarterfinals. ISL clubs Hyderabad FC, Bengaluru FC, Mumbai City FC, and I-League side Mohammedan SC made it to the semi-finals.
Bengaluru FC and Mumbai City FC made it to the Durand Cup final, where Bengaluru FC defeated Mumbai City FC by a 2-1 scoreline to lift the Cup at Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium.
2022 AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Semi-Finals – September also saw the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Semi-Finals being held. India’s ATK Mohun Bagan faced Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur City FC on the 7th of September. Although the Mariners dominated the majority of the game in all aspects, it was the visitors who surprised everyone by taking the lead at the 55th-minute mark thanks to Paulo Josue.
ATK Mohun Bagan equalized in the final moments of the game courtesy of Fardin Ali Molla’s goal. But Kuala Lumpur City scored two quick goals to win the tie and progress to the next round of the AFC Cup.
Hung Thinh friendly football tournament – The Indian National team was invited to the friendly tournament in Vietnam where they came up against hosts Vietnam along with Singapore.
Ashique Kuruniyan’s goal helped the Blue Tigers grab a point against Singapore, but in the second game against hosts Vietnam, team India suffered a 3-0 loss as it failed to get any momentum in the game against their Vietnam counterparts who have improved significantly over the years.
2023 AFC U-17 Asian Cup Qualifiers – India started its U-17 AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers campaign in Saudi Arabia on 3rd October. After big margin wins over the group stage opponents in Maldives (5-0), Kuwait (3-0), and Myanmar (4-1), India was up against the hosts on the 9th of October to decide who will emerge as the group winners and qualify directly for the finals.
Despite a valiant effort throughout the game against the hosts, India lost 2-1 to the Saudis but qualified for the final tournament as one of the six best second-placed ranked teams in the group stages.
Beginning of the ISL 22/23 Season – The ISL 2022/23 season started on 7th October in Kochi with an opening game between Kerala Blasters and East Bengal FC. This season will be very long with its new extended format of weekend-centric games, and a new change in the playoffs format. The season will end in March 2023 and will be succeeded by the Super Cup in April.
2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup – October also saw India host the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup from 10th October. 15 Nations along with hosts India took part in the tournament. India was grouped in Group A along with USA, Morocco, and Brazil.
In the opening game, India saw a humiliating 8-0 defeat to the hands of powerhouse USA. In the second game, it was followed by a 3-0 loss to Morocco. In the final group stage game, the Blue Tigresses had to go through another thumping 5-0 defeat against the Brazilians.
USA, Colombia, Spain, Germany, Nigeria, Tanzania, Brazil, and Japan made it to the quarterfinals. Out of them Nigeria, Colombia, Japan, and Spain qualified for the semi-finals. Spain defeated Japan, and Colombia edged past Nigeria to book their place in the final. Spain won by a 1-0 scoreline against Colombia to lift the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in India.
2023 AFC U-20 Asian Cup Qualifiers – On 14th October, India began its U-20 AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers campaign in Kuwait. The Blue Tigers lost their opening game against Iraq by a 4-2 scoreline, making it mandatory to win the second game against the powerful Aussies. But the youngsters saw another late defeat by a 4-1 margin against Australia which killed all their hopes of qualifying.
In the final game, India defeated hosts Kuwait by a 2-1 scoreline to take some positives from the qualifier’s campaign. Despite the disappointment, there were a lot of promises for the future.
Promotion to the ISL – On the 5th of November, it was announced that the I-League winners for the ongoing season would be promoted to the ISL next season. It was a welcomed move towards expanding India’s first tier and making it more competitive in the future.
I-League 22/23 season begins – November also saw the new Hero I-League season kicked off on the 12th of November with an opening game between Champions Gokulam Kerala FC and Runners-up Mohammedan SC in Malappuram, Kerala.
Withdrawal of the 2027 AFC Cup hosting bid – On 5th December, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced its decision to withdraw its bid to host the AFC Asian Cup 2027. This is after the association pushed hard to earn the opportunity of hosting the continental tournament for the first time ever. The AIFF backed out of the race for the rights to host the 2027 AFC Asian Cup edition because it doesn’t fit into the federation’s ‘strategic priorities’.
AIFF’s executive committee members took the final decision to withdraw from the competition’s hosting rights. They said in a statement: “Our current focus is building the foundations of the proper footballing structure before thinking of hosting bigger events like the AFC Asian Cup.”
“The overall strategy of the Federation currently remains on focusing on the fundamental goals to strengthen our football at every level from grassroots to youth development. At the same time, we must also strengthen our stakeholders, especially the State Associations, and work closely with the clubs to bring about a change in every aspect of football at the domestic level. All such aspects will truly be implemented when the Roadmap is announced later this month.” said AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey
2022 was undoubtedly a massive year in the Indian Football Calendar. Although there were many ups and downs, it saw a lot of memories and achievements being made this year. 2023 will certainly have more to offer without a doubt. Share your thoughts on the year 2022 and the most notable things that happened in Indian Football. Let us know your opinions in the comments below.
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