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How Maharashtra was able to get hosting rights of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup despite one stadium not being FIFA-certified

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Anil Dias | Updated on: Monday, January 17, 2022, 06:38 PM IST

The AFC Women's Asian Cup. | Photo: Twitter
The AFC Women's Asian Cup. | Photo: Twitter
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For Maharashtra to be the lone state hosting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup is a matter of huge pride. And while the state readies itself for the continental extravaganza, it can count itself a tad lucky to be given the hosting rights.

The tournament was supposed to be held in the three Indian cities Bhubaneswar, Ahmedabad and Navi Mumbai. But with Covid pandemic raging on, sources say AFC were very insistent on stadiums being close to each other. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) too agreed with this as the safety of the players and all those involved is paramount.

The only solution were the three cities in Maharashtra – Pune, Navi Mumbai and Mumbai where teams could remain in a bio-bubble throughout, and travel to all venues by road.

But then came another obstacle – the Mumbai Football Arena isn’t a certified FIFA stadium since it doesn’t meet a few criteria, including not having bucket seats in all the stands.

Since the natural turf is FIFA-certified, it was proposed that the games could be played at the venue only if no spectators were allowed at the stadium. And since the organisers were still debating whether to have fans or not, this situation sealed the deal.

The tournament will see 12 of the best sides from Asia. At stake is a spot at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup which will take place in Australia and New Zealand.

India are grouped with China, Chinese Taipei and Iran in Group A. They have a great chance of making it to the quarterfinal and will take courage from the fact that they’ve beaten Chinese Taipei in a friendly recently.

Two football bio-bubbles in the country have been breached this year. The Indian Super League (ISL) has seen a few of its games being cancelled with as many as nine teams having positive cases in their bubbles. The I-League had to be postponed after more than 50 players tested for the virus.

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Published on: Monday, January 17, 2022, 06:38 PM IST