India were scheduled to face Singapore on September 24 before taking on Vietnam on September 27. The matches, crucial for India’s preparation for next year’s Asian Cup, were being hosted by Vietnam with Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City being the likely venue.
However, according to sources, the Vietnam football federation communicated to the AIFF last week their inability to host India for the matches. It must be noted that after suspending the AIFF on August 14, FIFA had written to all its member associations, reminding them not to enter any ‘sporting contact with AIFF’ and its teams while it is suspended.
Sources said Vietnam took the decision to cancel India’s matches even though they are still a month away to avoid any ‘uncertainty’. “Vietnam did not want to risk losing out on matches during the crucial FIFA window. Given that there was no clarity on the status of AIFF, they chose to cancel the matches and begin their search for an alternate opponent,” the source said.
For Vietnam, these matches were a part of their preparation for the 2022 AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup. India, meanwhile, were hoping to make use of the FIFA window (September 19 to 27) to begin their preparation for the Asian Cup.
India coach Igor Stimac, whose contract renewal is still to be confirmed, had earlier this month expressed his happiness at playing these two teams. India is currently placed 104th in the world, while their two opponents were placed at 97th (Vietnam) and 159th (Singapore).
The development means the AIFF will have to begin their hunt for new opponents if its suspension ends before the FIFA window.
Last week, Indian Women’s League champions Gokulam Kerala became the first team to bear the brunt of the AIFF’s suspension after they were barred from competing in the Asian Club Championship in Uzbekistan and sent back home.