For the first in history, Sri Lanka will not be participating in South Asia’s main football tournament South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup 2023 which begins from Wednesday (June 21).

Sri Lanka is out of this tournament because of FIFA ban on the Sri Lanka Football administration since January 2023.

India will host the SAFF Championship matches which are scheduled to be held at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium from June 21 to July 4. Bangalore, India.

The SAFF Championship 2023 will get underway on June 21, with Kuwait taking on Nepal in the opener of Group A. India will play their first match against Pakistan later on the same day.

Sri Lanka has participated SAFF tournament since its inception in 1993 till 2021 emerging champions in 1995 in Colombo.

In Sri Lanka’s absence, Lebanon and Kuwait, despite not being among SAFF nations, will be participating in the eight-team event after receiving special invitation.

Ranked 101st in the latest FIFA rankings, India are the defending SAFF champions, having won the tournament in 2021 after beating Nepal 3-0 in the final. India are also the most successful team in the regional tournament, having won the title eight times (1993, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2021).

Lebanon (99) will be the highest-ranked team in the competition followed by India. Other rankings are as follows – Kuwait (143), Nepal (174), Pakistan (195), Maldives (154), Bhutan (185) and Bangladesh (192).

Following the single round-robin matches, top two teams from each group will progress to the semi-finals, which will be played on July 1. The final will be held on July 4. 

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