Actor Shomi Kaiser presents a big smile as AFC vice-president Moni Lal Fernando (R) picks the name of Bangladesh during the draw ceremony of the SAFF Championship at Sheraton Hotel in the city yesterday. Photo: STAR
Hosts Bangladesh have been drawn in a comparatively easy Group B of the 6th SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) Championship to be held in Dhaka from December 4 to 14.
Seeded Bangladesh, who emerged champions in the third edition held in Bangladesh in 2003, were placed along with Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bhutan in Group B.
Holders Maldives, runners-up India, Nepal and Afghanistan will feature in Group A.
The colourful draw ceremony was held yesterday at Hotel Sheraton where all representatives of the eight nations except Nepal were present. All Nepal Football Federation president and SAFF president Ganesh Thapa was late to arrive in Dhaka.
Though Bangladesh were drawn in a trouble-free group, Bangladesh's Brazilian coach Edson Silva Dido was cautious to comment on the groups.
"I see no difference as I have little idea on the opponents. Besides, all the participating teams will come here after being fully prepared and you have no alternative but to win all matches if you want to finish top in the tournament," said Dido, who was present at the ceremony.
Rajani Kanta Barman, the captain of 2003 SAFF champions Bangladesh team, also felt no complacency with being slotted in an easy group.
"We were also placed in an easy group in the last edition, but what were our results? So it will not be wise to feel complacent by thinking of an easy group," said the defender, who was also present in the draw ceremony and picked one of the teams during the lottery.
Bangladesh were eliminated from the group stage in the 2008 fifth edition hosted jointly by Sri Lanka and Maldives after playing out a 2-2 draw with Afghanistan and a 1-1 draw against Bhutan before going down 1-0 to co-hosts Sri Lanka.
Defending champions Maldives and runners-up India, also three-time champions, were placed in the same group but their officials were not bothered.
"It is not a matter as we have to play everyone," said All Indian Football Federation general secretary Alberto Colaco at a press briefing that was held after the draw.
"It is very fair as the rules of the drawing was declared earlier," said Maldives Football Federation president Ali Azim adding that it was challenging for all teams.
Bangladesh and Maldives were rated first seeds as the hosts and the defending champions respectively and were drawn in two separate groups through lottery followed by the second seeds -- runners-up India and Sri Lanka-- in the same way.
Later, unseeded Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan were drawn into two respective groups, also by lottery.
"Considering the previous records as well as FIFA rankings, India and Sri Lanka were rated second seeds for the draw," said SAFF secretary Sirajul Islam Bachchu, who conducted the ceremony, but not in an organised way that diminished the programme.
The entrance of the Sheraton's ballroom was decked up in a big clothes-made football leading to a big podium with the trophy kept on a table.
After the welcome speech by Bachchu, the artists led by Shamim ara Nipa and Shiblee Mohammad, performed dances to uphold the culture of Bangladesh.
Asian Football Confederation vice-president Manilal Fernando, actress Shomi Kaiser, models Nobel and Bindhu, former Bangladesh captains Jewel Rana and Rajani Kanta Barman, Maldives football president Ali Azim participated in the draw proceedings.
Besides, the executive committee members of the Bangladesh Football Federation led by Kazi Salahuddin were among others present in the draw ceremony.