Indian football team is set to miss Asian Games 2023, which was supposed to be staged in Huangzhou, China, as they have failed to make the cut for qualifying in the coveted tournament. It would come down as a massive blow for the Indian stars who have just achieved a historic tournament treble by clinching SAFF Championships, Intercontinental Cup and Tri-Nations Cup, and were on the rise over the past few years.
A massive blow for the Indian contingent
Indian football team has seen a meteoric rise over the past few years under Croatian gaffer Igor Stimac, who is a prominent name in the European football circuit, and was linked with Croatia’s World Cup success in 1998. He has led the Blues to several astonishing feats like winning the SAFF Championship, defeating Kuwait, and also thumping Lebanon in the finals of Intercontinental Cup, in consideration of which, India entered the top 100 rankings in FIFA. As a result, everyone were under the thought that Indian team would be an easy choice for Asiad as they will look to add some more jewels to their crown.
But, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had some other rules in mind as they have mentioned earlier that football squads for both genders would not be allowed to take part in the tournament, citing their ranking which is outside the favored top eight in Asia, as men’s team rank at 18th and women’s at 11th. But, owing to a heartfelt appeal from National Team coach Stimac and AIFF, it was thought that IOA might tweak some rules for the football contingents, which is turned down by IOA by saying that it would not change its criteria to allow them to take part in the tournament.
Huge miss for Indian team?
After the initial news of not allowing India to participate broke out on 15th July, protests were initiated all around the country. But, these protests and marches went in vain as Indian team will be barred from taking part in the coveted Asiad, for the second time in a row. The official statement from IOA read, “As we gear up for the highly anticipated event, scheduled to take place in Hangzhou, China the IOA reaffirms its commitment to promoting excellence in sports by strictly adhering to the selection criteria formulated by the Government of India vide their letter dated 10th July 2023. The adherence to these norms aims to foster a culture of transparency, meritocracy, and excellence in the Indian sports ecosystem.”
IOA further continued, “In team events, the focus will be on selecting sports that have achieved a top 8 ranking in Asia in the last one year preceding the Asian Games. This approach will guarantee that team sports with a proven track record of excellence and competitiveness in the region get the opportunity to represent India.”
Former Asian Games medalist, star Indian runner and current President of the IOA, PT Usha further continued, “We believe in nurturing a culture of excellence and fair play in Indian sports. The Asian Games provide a fantastic opportunity for our athletes to compete on a grand stage and make the nation proud. By aligning our selection criteria with the Government of India’s guidelines, we aim to showcase a contingent that embodies the true spirit of sportsmanship and dedication. “
Thus, it would be a dark phase for Indian football, in spite of showcasing a meteoric rise in the recent past, but, it is expected that the “Blue Tigers” will roar back, as they have always done earlier.