The Indian Olympic Association has refused to allow the bLUE tIGERS to participate at the upcoming games in Jakarta.
Following the Association’s (IOA) refusal to allow the Indian football team to participate in the Asian Games, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das held a press conference in Delhi on Monday.
“The IOA has taken a decision not to allow the Indian men’s and women’s football teams to participate in the Asian Games for the first time ever. I would like to state and put on record certain facts,” Das started.
“Firstly, we have gotten no official communication from the IOA about the non-participation of the teams, it was all verbal,” said Das, who was joined by former Indian captain and National Team Director Abhishek Yadav.
Watch AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das and National Team Director Abhishek Yadav talking in the press conference
“I think it is strange that they did not have the courtesy to inform us about the basis on which the teams are not being allowed to participate,” continued the official as he slammed the IOA and their decision. Das informed the media that he had contacted the IOA and was met with “unclear” reasoning for the decision.
“We told them we are ready to bear the expenses for the teams. They are yet to get back to us,” The AIFF General Secretary revealed.
Citing a similar situation in 2014, when the IOA denied the Indian team from participating in the Asian Games but changed their decision at the last moment, Das brought up IOA’s criteria for joining the Indian contingent to Jakarta.
“They want only those who were in the top eight at the last Asian Games, or maybe now… I am still not completely sure. Indian football should not be looked at through that criteria. In 2014 we were ranked 165th in the world, now we are 97th. We are ranked 13th in Asia, so we have made great progress in the recent years. We should be allowed to participate.”
On 4th June, Das was instructed to submit a presentation to the IOA, outlining why the teams deserved to make it to the Asian Games. However, the General Secretary was not met with any response. Even the intervention of AIFF President, Praful Patel failed to convince the IOA to reconsider their decision which was made official on 30th June 2018.
“We have a significant number of international tournaments where a lot of U-23 players will participate, and I think this would have been great exposure all the way to the U-23 AFC Qualifiers,” Das added.
Yadav stated that the teams would be continuing with their preparation camps in the hope that the IOA might yet take a favourable decision. The Indian Women’s team have not been as active as their male counterparts, playing only two international friendlies in the past year. The team is now in a preparation camp in Spain.
The Indian football has seen a significant rise in recent years
“At this point in time, all we can do is talk to people, engage with all of you and explain to all of you that this is not a good decision for the sport and maybe with your inputs, the fans inputs and the inputs of the lovers of the game, maybe the IOA may reconsider, but it is completely up to the IOA”, Das asserted.
“We have 11 U-23 players in the senior team. Right after Asian Games we have SAFF Championship, AFC Asian Cup and AFC U-23 Qualifiers. It would be a great exposure for those young players to play in the Asian Games ahead of those big tournaments.”
The appeals by the AIFF to the IOA to reverse the decision which included a presentation on how Indian football has progressed in the last few years, including the grassroots programs that have been put in place, have fallen on deaf ears so far. The fans of the Blue Tigers will hope that the decision is overturned in the coming days and the growth of Indian football is not stunted.