Missing Kerala, Indian Expats Disappointed.
Santosh Trophy Semifinals: It is the first time that the semifinals and the final of the senior men's football championship is being played abroad.
The Indian and Saudi Arabia flags were displayed side by side.The locals and the Indian expatriates,less than 100 in number,tropped into the 60,000 capacity King Fahd International Stadium to watch the Santosh Trophy Semifinals.It is the first time that the semifinals and the final of the senior men's national football championship is being played abroad.Punjab,Meghalaya,Services and Karnataka were the four semifinalists.
With the love of football brought the Indian fans to the stadium,many were disappointed because of the absence of the Kerala team,which did not qualify for the semifinals. "The stadium would have been full had Kerala qualified for the semifinals",said Shakeel,who hails from Malapurram in Kerala. "You know when the Santosh trophy was held in Malapuram in Kerala(2021) not one seat was empty.A lot of fans had to stand to watch the matches.It could have been the same here today as well", he added.
Mohammed Basheer,Presient of the Riyadh Indian Football Association (RIFA),said that the stands were empty because of the 3pm (local time) starting time of the first semifinal between Punjab and Meghalaya."This is working time so that is why a lot of people who wanted to come are not here.There will be a bigger number for sure for the final as it is the weekend", Basheer said.Basheer said that RIFA organises a lot of football tournaments for the Indian population here.
"From the age group to the senior level,we organise all tournaments .We are also talking to the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to see if some of our senior teams can play in the national circuit at some level", he said.Then there was Mangalore's Qalander Saifi,who came purely as a football fan."Yes Kerala is not here but there is football happening so I am here",he said.
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