The South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) were on Wednesday, dealt the sad news that one-time winners SAFF championship winners Afghanistan, who incidently are current defending champions, will participate in the SAFF Championship for the last time, in 2015, before leaving the federation permanently.
The Lions of Khorasan, as the Afghanis are popularly called, have been placed in the newly approved Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
The formation of the new sub-group, inside the continent, was finalized in a meeting of the continental governing body held in January during the AFC Asian Cup. Afghanistan will compete against the likes of Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in the first CAFA championship to be held next year.
"The 2015 SAFF will be the last one we will be playing," informed Haroon Amiri, the captain of the team, to Goal.
Amiri also conceded that it will be hard to compete against teams like Iran and Uzbekistan who are placed among the top 100 in the FIFA Rankings, but claimed that his team will improve even more as time passes.
"Maybe the first or the second year will be hard, but we will be ready after that," he said, about the challenge ahead.
Looking back on his country's SAFF journey, he explained, "It's like before when we joined SAFF (back in 2005). The first two years were very difficult for us, then after that we became champions also. So, it's all about the hard work and we believe in ourselves."
Afghanistan had defeated India 2-0 in the final of the 2013 SAFF Championship to claim their first title and will be favourites again when they take part in the competition, which will be held in India, this year.