Football: India set to play away friendly against China for first time

China's Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium is set to host the fixture in October 

Football: India set to play away friendly against China for first time
Pic courtesy: PTI

As a part of their preparation for the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, India will play an international football friendly against China on October 13, it was announced on Sunday.

The match which will be held in the scheduled FIFA October window will be played in the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in Suzhou City, Jiangsu province, according to a statement. This is the first time ever that an Indian senior team will be travelling to China. The two nations have faced each other 17 times, all on Indian soil- the last being 21 years ago for the Nehru Cup in Kochi in 1997.

For the record, India are yet to win a match against China. Off the past 17 matches, 12 have gone in favour of China while 5 were drawn. However, India has been on an upsurge over the last couple of years, maintaining an unbeaten run of 12 official matches from June 2016 to November 2017.

General Secretary of All India Football Federation (AIFF) Kushal Das said that AIFF is looking forward to a "long bilateral footballing relationship with China."

"Globally India and China are now being looked up to as two of the fastest emerging football markets. The match will usher in a new era in Asian football as this is the first time ever that the Indian National Team will be travelling to play in China. We look forward to a long-term bilateral footballing relationship with China in near future," he said.

"Playing against China in China is a perfect way to gear up for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. China are a supremely talented side and it will provide us an opportunity to further gauge ourselves where we stand prior to the Continental Championships," he added.

India are currently ranked 97 in the September FIFA Rankings while China are at 76.

National coach Stephen Constantine stated these are the "kind of games we need."

"China are a strong team and the match will be a tough test for us. But we need to play these sort of games right now. Getting to play under pressure is important and an away fixture in China is exactly the kind of game we need," he quipped. "Hopefully everyone stays free from injury as it`s going to be an important game for the build-up to the AFC Asian Cup in January," he added.