NEW DELHI: In a major setback, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has decided not to send Indian men's and women's Football Teams to the Asian Games as they have been deemed them "incompetent" to win any medals. With this decision, it will be the first time since the 1994 Hiroshima edition that an Indian team will not take part in the football competition of the Asian Games, which is an U-23 event with three over-age players being allowed.
Soon after, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) offered to bear the expenses of the Football Team(s) to the Asian Games if permitted by the IOA. AIFF president Praful Patel made a call to IOA chief Narinder Batra to explain the circumstances and even sent letters to Secretary General IOA Rajeev Mehta and Chairman of the Preparation Committee Asian Games Lalit Bhanot.
However, the IOA chose to stick to its original stance and turned down the request of the AIFF. The AIFF were hoping to use the Asian Games as one of the key tournaments in the build-up to next year's Asian Cup. In the last three years, Indian Football has achieved a jump in FIFA Rankings from 173 to 97, and also qualified for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
As per IOA regulations, only those national teams which are ranked between 1-8 at the continental level, were cleared for the Games. Accordingly, 'Blue Tigers', who are currently ranked 14 in Asia were denied an opportunity despite a string of good performances in international matches of late.
India have qualified for the marquee Asian Cup after a gap of eight years, having last played 2011. "In fact, the premier football competition in Asia is the AFC Asian Cup where India has qualified after 8 years. IOA's stance and myopic view comes in sharp contrast to the support of both the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Sports Authority of India, both of whom who have been hugely supportive of Indian Football and recognised AIFF's efforts in the last 3 years," AIFF said.
"It is indeed a sad state of affairs for sport in India that the IOA is unable to distinguish the specific needs of each sport in the country. The IOA was never even bothered to even once discuss with the AIFF the strategy and plans for developing football in India," the AIFF alleged.