Indian football teams stranded in China
Kolkata : With the government yet to give the go ahead to the football contingent for the Incheon Asian Games, both the men and women’s teams are stranded in China where they had gone for an exposure tour ahead of the big event.
“The teams are now stranded in Shanghai, waiting for the government’s green signal. The team was slated to leave for Incheon Tuesday,” an All India Football Federation (AIFF) source told.
“It is a very painful experience for the young teams, stranded in a foreign land. And it is not a good advertisement for the country’s football also,” the source said.
AIFF president Praful Patel last week met Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in an attempt to get clearance for the men’s and women’s football teams for the Asian Games slated Sep 19-Oct 4 in the South Korean city.
Sonowal has been advised by his officials not to clear teams in five disciplines, including football.
The recommendations for all the 28 events, in which India will be participating in Asian Games, have been made on the basis of the criteria laid down by the government.
Besides football, basketball, handball, table tennis and sepak takraw could also be axed if Sonowal strictly goes by his ministry officials’ recommendations.
It was important for the ministry to drop some disciplines after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) sent a list of 935 athletes and officials for the Asian Games.
At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, the Indian contingent had 625 athletes and the ministry wants to keep the Incheon contingent to around 700.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) is not impressed with the way the men’s football team has been performing.
The under-23 team recently lost to arch-rivals Pakistan 0-2, which was their first defeat against the neighbours at home in 55 years. The men’s team is ranked 26th while the women are ranked 11th in Asia.
The men’s team, which won the gold medal twice in 1951 and 1962, are currently ranked 150th in the world. They have been clubbed with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in Group G.
The AIFF may have to shell out a whopping Rs.1.15 crore to send the U-23 men’s and women’s team to the Asian Games if Sonowal allows them to participate on ‘no cost to the government’ basis.
“However, the government seems to have problems with that also. Their argument is that even if they go at AIFF’s expense, they would nevertheless be representing India and a poor performance will only dent India’s prestige,” the source added.
So far, an expenditure of almost Rs.3 crore has been committed on both the men’s and women’s teams for their preparation for the Asian Games.
The Indian women have been drawn with hosts South Korea, Thailand and the Maldives in the group stages.
The football competitions of the Asian Games are scheduled to kick-off Sep 14 five days ahead of the Games inaugural.