The Indian football team is likely to miss the Asian Games for the second time in a row as it does not meet the Sports Ministry’s criteria of being ranked among the top-8 sides in the continent. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) had earlier planned that the national senior team head coach Igor Stimac would take an Under-23 side to the September 23 to October 8 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China after the Kings Cup in Thailand (September 7-10).
Since 2002, football in Asian Games has been an U-23 affair with three players above that age are also permitted in a team.
In a letter sent to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and all the National Sports Federations (NSFs), the Sports Ministry has said that “for team events, only those sports which have achieved a ranking up to eighth among participating countries of Asia in the last one year should be considered for participation in Asian Games”.
India is nowhere close to the top-8 in Asia in the rankings. It is currently in the 18th spot among countries under the Asian Football Confederation.
The AIFF said it will appeal to the sports ministry to reconsider the decision.
“This is a decision taken by the government. So, we have to abide by it. However, we will make an appeal to the government to reconsider the decision as far as football is concerned,” AIFF Secretary General Shaji Prabhakaran told PTI.
“The Indian team’s performance this year has been extremely encouraging. It will be a great boost for football, especially for the U-23 boys, if they get an opportunity to play in the Asian Games.” The IOA had refused to clear the Indian football team for the 2018 Asian Games on the same ground that it was not ranked in the top-8 in Asia.
There is a provision in the Sports Ministry’s instructions sent to the IOA and NSFs, which could give a ray of hope to the AIFF headed by Kalyan Chaubey.
“Where, in the opinion of the experts of specific sports disciplines, and that of Sports Authority of India, participation of individuals and teams in relaxation of the above criteria is recommended with justifiable reasons, the same will be considered in the Ministry for appropriate decision,” the ministry letter said.
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