AIFF (All India Football Federation) published a strong press release against IOA yesterday, criticising the ‘myopic vision’ of the organisation.
The All India Football Federation on Sunday posted a press release stating that the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) have disallowed the football team’s participation for Asian Games. The Games will be held in Jakarta and Palembang, and will begin on August 18.
AIFF took a strong stance against IOA’s action, saying that the organisation lacks “the vision and competence to understand that Football is a global sport played by 212 countries, and that the top 5 teams in Asia play in the FIFA World Cup where the level of competition is far superior to the Asian Games.”
The decision has led to an outrage among Indian supporters, with many voicing their criticism for IOA on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook, to many even filing online petitions to include the team for the Asian Games.
What really is the whole story, though?
The AIFF’s Stance:
Stephen Constantine, the manager of Indian national football team, voiced his concerns over India’s participation at the Asia during the recently concluded Intercontinental Cup.
“We need more games and if the government is listening, send us to the Asian Games. It is an U-23 event. We have 11 players in this squad who are U-23. The benefit is huge that we will gain from the Asian Games with these players,” Constantine said after India’s first match of the Intercontinental Cup.
The AIFF believes that Asian Games is a great opportunity for the football team to test themselves against the best in the continent. With eleven U-23 players in the Indian national team, Asian Games will also give them a vital experience for the AFC Asian Cup next year. India has qualified in the Asian Cup for only the third time in its history, which increases the significance of team’s participation at the Asiad.
In their press release, AIFF states, “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 IOA’s stance:
AIFF’s general secretary held a press conference on the issue today in New Delhi, where he said, “We have got no official letter from Indian Olympic Association about team not participating, we came to know from media. I really don’t understand qualification criteria.”
IOA is yet to make an official announcement on the fate of Indian football team. However, Indian Express reports that one of the IOAs officials has stated that the team “does not stand a chance to compete for medals.”
While their stance is yet to be known, it is clear that IOA have decided to stick to their regulation of sending teams ranked between 1-8 at the continental level to the Asian Games.
However, it is to be noted that a similar situation arose before the 2014 Asian Games. Indian football team ranked even worse four years ago, but IOA later cleared the team for participating in the tournament.
India is ranked 97th in the World at the moment, and 13th in Asia.
Kushal Das, the General Secretary for the AIFF, said that their organisation is ready to bear the expenses of sending the team, if needed. Das stated that AIFF send their proposal to the IOA on June 4, and are yet to receive a revert on the same.
There have been significant preparations for the women’s team as well, as they were supposed to be sent to Spain for final training before the Asian Games. Despite the clouds of uncertainty over team’s participation, Das insisted that AIFF has been efficiently conducting training for both the teams.
India were due to be drawn in Pot 4 for the Asian Games, which would’ve meant that the team would’ve certainly played against one of The UAE, Bahrain, or Thailand. All the three teams are in India’s group for the AFC Asian Cup next year.
India’s U23 side last played a registered professional game last year in July against Turkmenistan, and are highly devoid of exposure of playing highly ranked teams in the continent. The squad was to assemble on July 14, according to football website ‘Goal’, after which the team would fly to Australia to play against two A-League clubs.
The national football sides across Asia are getting stronger, with Japan qualifying for the knock-out rounds of the World Cup, and South Korea defeating defending champions Germany in the tournament. In such a scenario, a lack of participation in the Asian Games would be a step backwards.
Stephen Constantine earlier revealed that India are close to reaching an agreement with Saudi Arabia for a friendly in November. The Middle-Eastern nation qualified for the FIFA World Cup this year, and finished third in their group, beating Mohamed Salah’s Egypt in their final game. Besides, India might also be playing against two other top Asian football teams.
However, there’s a fine line of difference between friendlies and tournaments, where, in the latter, any result would come with subsequent consequences which have a direct impact on players’ physical and mental functioning.
The last time, AIFF went through a similar situation, but the football team was eventually cleared to participate. It will be interesting to see how things turn out this time around.