Malaysia has emerged as the winner of the Tri-Nations Blind Football Tournament in India.
The tournament, involving the hosts, Malaysia and newcomers Laos, was held last weekend in Kochi. The event was the first ever international blind football competition held in the country and Laos was making its international debut.
It was organised by the Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF), which has been working in partnership with the Paralympic Committee of India to promote B1 football in the country.
Caption: the Malaysian national blind football squad poses for a team photo.
The opening ceremony was held on 1st Dec with the three international teams lining up and MLA of Ernakulam Constituency Shri Hibi Eiden presiding over the event. The opening game saw India take on Laos - the hosts team played attacking football but a turn and shot by Laos striker Somshak, who is a rising star in blind football from the east, beat the Indian custodian Melson Jacob, giving the newcomers the lead. After the break India added pressure and played attacking blind football but was unable to break through and score. The game ended with Laos winning its first ever International game.
The second game, on 2nd Dec, had India take on old rivals Malaysia in a must win game. The hosts got off to an impressive start with Pankaj Rana opening his goal account for India with a splendid field goal. Malaysia came back strongly with Ahmad Fikri Omar equalising before the break.
The brief downpour didn't deter the crowd who stayed back to catch the thriller, and in the second half Azril Che Ibrahim found himself with space off a deflected pass from Indian captain Aneesh M K and slotted the ball into the empty corner of the goal. India kept moving and attacking hard but the Malaysian defence proved to be stern resistance, and five minutes before the end Azril Che Ibrahim went for goal from long range and the ball went in off the corner post. Malaysia had beaten India 3-1 and ended the hosts' run in the tournament.
On day three 3rd Dec, Malaysia took on Laos in a match to decide the top position before the final. Both teams went for an attacking display with Somshak, Laos attacker taking on the Malaysian defence in some impressive penetrative moves. Azhar on the other end, gave the Laos defence a tough time, but it was not before midway in the second half that talisman Ahmad Fikri Omar broke through the Laos defence and scored Malaysia's only goal of the game, winning the contest.
The finals on 4th Dec had leaders Malaysia taking on Laos. The game had an early start with the Collector of Ernakulam Muhammed Safirulla inaugurating the final contest. The game was end-to-end with both teams attacking and raiding each other's defences. Both teams created a number of chances but the game ended goalless.
The final went to a penalty shoot-out - Laos missed two of their penalty shots, Somshak slotted in his penalty and Malaysia converted two of the shots which had Ahmad Fikri converting one of the kicks. So 2-1 to Malaysia, who took the title.
Ahmad Fikri Omar, who scored two goals in the pool games and one in the penalty shootout, emerged as the Golden Boot winner. Shri Kurian Joseph Hon Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India was the chief guest for the trophy distribution. The referee panel for the tournament comprised of Manjith Gokulan (IBSA approved ref from India) and Eugene Low from Singapore, alongside match officials from the Indian Football referee unit.
The tournament gave an opportunity for the teams to bring through new players with a view of improving the standard in the future and help in building teams for the future.
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Blind Football Laos on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/blindfootball.laos/?fref=ts
Caption: Laos (left) and Malaysia (right) line up before the match.