India’s Historic Futsal Debut: Battling Bahrain and Preparing for Asian Cup Qualifiers

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A Look at India’s Maiden International Futsal Matches Against Bahrain and Their Path to the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Qualifiers


History was made on August 12, 2023, as the Indian futsal team embarked on its first international journey, facing off against Bahrain in a friendly match at the Khalifa Sports City Hall in Bahrain. This significant moment marked India’s foray into the global futsal arena. Led by head coach Joshua Stan Vaz, the Indian squad, consisting of 14 talented players, stepped onto the court with a blend of excitement, determination, and a shared hunger to represent their nation on the international stage.

(Main picture source: AIFF)


From Club Triumphs to International Debut: India’s Journey to Bahrain

The Indian team’s selection process was rooted in their performances at the Hero Futsal Club Championship held earlier in the year. Demonstrating skill, strategy, and teamwork, these players earned their spot on the international roster. As the squad arrived in Bahrain, anticipation and curiosity grew among both fans and enthusiasts.

The two friendly matches against Bahrain not only marked India’s debut on the global scene but also offered crucial preparation for the impending AFC Futsal Asian Cup™ 2024 Qualifiers. Set to take place in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, from October 7-11, the qualifiers will see India pitted against Myanmar, Palestine, and the host nation Tajikistan in Group E.

The Indian team, under the guidance of Coach Vaz, displayed a mixture of emotions, from the excitement of the occasion to the nervous energy that comes with stepping onto a new stage. “My first thoughts are those of excitement and hunger to go out there and represent our great nation in its first-ever futsal match. I’m sure my coaching staff and the boys are well prepared and have the same hunger for the match against Bahrain tomorrow,” Vaz expressed.

Facing Bahrain: A Test of Skill and Resolve

Bahrain, a seasoned contender in the world of futsal, provided a formidable challenge for India. Having participated in the AFC Futsal Championship since 2002 and qualified for the past two AFC Futsal Asian Cups in 2018 and 2022, Bahrain’s experience was evident. Yet, the Indian team remained undeterred, aiming to showcase their skills and learn from the encounter.

The match itself unveiled the determination of both teams. Bahrain’s well-practiced maneuvers and attempts to breach the Indian defense were met with resilience and tenacity. The Indian players, despite the final 0-3 loss, displayed grit and a promising level of preparation, reflecting their dedication leading up to the Bahrain tour.

Looking Forward: A Journey in Progress

As the final whistle blew, signifying India’s defeat on their international futsal debut, it was evident that this journey had only just begun. The loss did not dampen the spirits of the Indian players, nor did it overshadow their determination. Instead, it fueled their motivation to hone their skills and strategies for the upcoming challenges, including the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Qualifiers later in the year.

Amid the lessons learned and the anticipation of the road ahead, Coach Vaz expressed his gratitude to the fans for their support and encouragement. “I would like to thank all the fans who came to welcome us at the Bahrain International Airport. I look forward to seeing all of you in big numbers to back the boys in blue again,” he conveyed, encapsulating the unity and enthusiasm that marked this historic moment for Indian futsal.

India’s Second Futsal Friendly Against Bahrain: A Different Battle

In their second international futsal friendly match against Bahrain, India faced a different kind of challenge. The match concluded with a 0-4 defeat for India, but the game was marked by both sides creating numerous opportunities.

Within just four minutes, Bahrain took the lead with Saleh Ahmed Mukhallaf’s shot from outside the area finding the bottom corner. India fought back as Abhay Gurung narrowly missed the target with a volley attempt.

Salman Maula Bukhsh extended Bahrain’s lead with a well-placed shot into the top corner. Despite the scoreline, India pressed high and created chances before halftime. Gurang’s break on the counter saw a shot straight at the keeper, and Nikhil Mali’s attempt went over the bar.

Second-Half Battles and Elusive Goals

The second half brought a more balanced contest as India sought to score. Nikhil Mali orchestrated attacks, but his efforts didn’t find the mark. In the 18th minute, Ammar Hasan Ali Myhad’s long-range shot and an own goal by Mali sealed Bahrain’s 4-0 victory.

India’s head coach Joshua Vaz introduced Kashinath Rathod as a flying goalkeeper in search of their maiden international futsal goal, but despite multiple chances, India was unable to find the net.

These matches against Bahrain offered insights into India’s strengths and areas for improvement as they gear up for the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Qualifiers.

As the Indian team returns to their homeland, they carry with them not just the memory of their debut match, but a determination to continue evolving, learning, and making their mark on the international futsal landscape. The team embraces the challenges and opportunities for growth that lie ahead.

Author of the Interview 

Stephen McGettigan was born in the Republic of Ireland but grew up in Belfast. He is the founder of Futsal Focus and a Football Industries MBA graduate from the University of Liverpool Management School. Stephen has worked in the Football and Futsal industries for 15 years.

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