The All India Football Federation said on Monday it is willing to send the national team to the Asian Games on its own cost while slamming the IOA for not having the “courtesy to officially intimate” them about its decision to not clear the side.
As per the Indian Olympic Association’s regulations, only those national teams which are ranked between 1-8 at the continental level, are cleared for the Games.
“I wrote a letter to the IOA explaining our disappointment and unhappiness of this decision without really consulting with us and trying to understand what is happening in football world. If expenses are an issue we are willing to pay for the team’s travel and stay,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said in New Delhi.
This was a day after the AIFF said the Narinder Batra-led body lacked “vision and competence”.
“I would like to state and put on record certain facts - firstly we have got no official communication from the IOA about the team’s non-participation, it’s all been verbal,” said Das.
“I think it is strange that they did not follow the protocol or the courtesy to at least inform the federation, the basis on which the teams are not being not allowed to participate. No formal communication has ever come from them.”
“They just arbitrarily took the decision and did not give us a chance to explain.”
The AIFF will need a go-ahead from the IOA even if it is willing to bear the expenses.
Asked about its next step, Das added, “We will make an official representation to the Sports Ministry, we have got a lot of support from the government and SAI (Sports Authority of India). We are hopeful that they would support us on this issue.”
This will be the first time since the 1994 Hiroshima edition that an Indian team is set to miss the football competition of the Asian Games, which is an U-23 event with three over-age players being allowed.
The ‘Blue Tigers’, are currently ranked 14th in Asia, after a string of good performances in international matches of late.
Seeking to back his arguments with the team’s performance, Das thought the IOA’s response, on the other hand, lacked clarity.
“I think I also did not understand the criteria too well. They said (those) who were ranked less than eight in the previous edition, which is four years back (will not be cleared). I don’t know whether they are talking about current ranking or the previous Asian Games, it was very, very unclear.”
This is a crucial year for the Indian men’s team, as it has qualified for the marquee Asian Cup after a gap of eight years, having last played in 2011.
“... I have said that you (IOA officials) have to look at football in a different manner completely, it’s a sport in which India has been doing well of late. We have been trying to develop the game, we have jumped from 173 to 97 in a couple of years.
“They asked us to explain what is happening in Indian football. That was on June 4 but that there was again no communication from the IOA.
“Finally, I told my president (Praful Patel) to intervene, but strangely there was again no communication from them.”
The national team’s gradual rise was not lost on the AIFF, which sought to advertise its efforts, including through a video presentation.