Tajikistan wins inaugural AFC Challenge Cup

Tajikistan has won the inaugural Asian Football Confederation's Challenge Cup, defeating Sri Lanka 4-0 before a 5,000-strong crowd at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, Bangladesh on Sunday, AFCMedia reported. It was Tajikistan's first-ever title at continental level. The tournament provides a platform for international competition for 16 teams from emerging and developing countries in Asia: Afghanistan, Taiwan, Philippines, India, Guam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Palestine, Brunei, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Macau, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

As soon as Iranian referee Hedayat Mombini blew the final whistle, Tajikistan footballers rushed to coach Sharif Nazarov, giving the 60-year-old big hugs before tossing him into the air. “I may look old but I feel the youth is still inside. I want to work as long as I am alive," said Nazarov. “We came here to win the trophy and we are champions. Certainly, this victory is going to develop the game in our country," he told AFCMedia. “We have also proved that we are able to play at a higher level. I congratulate my players for keeping the tempo from the start and winning it."

Runners-up Sri Lanka won the Cup tournament's Fair Play Trophy. The Golden Boot went to Palestine striker Fahed Attal, who scored eight goals including a double-hattrick in their 11-0 win over Guam in the opening match. Tajikistan midfielder Ibraguim Rabimov was adjudged the Most Valuable Player.

See also: Sponsors for AFC Challenge Cup 2006 unveiled (29 Mar)