The tiny but football powerhouse state of Manipur will host its first official international matches next month in a tri-nation friendly tournament involving Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan, besides the Indian team, at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Manipur. (More Football News)
The matches will be played on March 22, 24 and 26, which fall during the FIFA international window.
Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh announced that the state capital will host the international tournament at a press conference in Manipur in the presence of All India Football Federation 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," Biren said.
"From our end, I can assure everyone that the Government of Manipur will do everything to provide the best facilities and facilitate in the successful organisation of the tournament.
"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 mentioned the names of the likes of Renedy Singh, Gouramangi Singh, Udanta Singh, Amarjit Kiyam, Suresh Wangjam and Jeakson Singh, who have donned the country's jersey in international matches.
"Manipur has been a great contributor to women's football as well. Players like Bala Devi, who is one of the best strikers of this generation, captain Ashalata Devi, Dangmei Grace, Elangbam Panthoi Chanu and many more have made the country proud time and again well."
He also requested the AIFF’s assistance in establishing a top-class academy in the state.
The 35,000 capacity Khuman Lampak Stadium, where the matches will be held, has been hosting I-League games. It hosted group stage matches of the prestigious Durand Cup in August last year.
"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,” 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 tri-nation friendly tournament is part of a series of matches that India will play in the FIFA international window to prepare for next year's Asian Cup.
"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," head coach Igor Stimac said.
"These games should serve us well as we prepare for the Asian Cup. Hopefully, we can start the year with a few good results. I hope all our boys will maintain good form and stay injury free in the next few weeks until we get together.”
The Blue Tigers last played on home soil in June 2022, when they topped their group to secure qualification for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, defeating the likes of Cambodia, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.