The All India Football Federation (AIFF) lashed out at the Narinder Batra-led IOA saying that they “lack vision and competence” for excluding the Indian football teams (men & women) from the Asian Games 2018 in August at Jakarta, Indonesia despite Sunil Chhetri-led team has made a significant surge in the rankings moving right from the 173rd spot to 97th.

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 India Today referred to AIFF press release as saying, “Its clear the IOA 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”.

“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 release added.
This will be the first time that an Indian team will not take part in the football competition of the Asian Games, after the 1994 Hiroshima edition where a U-23 event with three over-age players being allowed.

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“Despite explaining to the Indian Olympic Association that Football as a global sport needs to be looked at differently, and after having explained the tremendous success that Indian Football has achieved in the last three years which include a jump in FIFA Rankings from 173 to 97 (at present), qualification to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the successful hosting of FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 and the various grassroots and youth development programmes undertaken by the AIFF, the IOA chose not to clear Indian Football Teams for the forthcoming Asian Games,” the AIFF lashed out.

Former India captain Renedy Singh, who was a part of Asian Games team in Busan in 2002, said for sports a team needs an exposure.
Speaking to ESPN he said, “U-23 players hardly get a chance to play. They need to get as many games as possible. The kind of competition you get will determine your confidence before these big tournaments.”

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“If you constantly play teams like Nepal and Bangladesh, you are going to be at that level. Unless you play better sides than yours, you won’t have any hope of getting better. You need to get these games so you can at least judge where your country stands,” he added.

Annoyed with the IOA, AIFF is even thinking of taking this matter to the Sports Minister, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. The ‘Blue Tigers’ who are currently ranked 14 in Asia have been denied an opportunity of a good game and a better performance despite performing so well lately in the past international matches.

India qualified this year for the marquee Asian Cup after long eight years. Praful Patel, the president, AIFF also sent letters and called up Batra, secretary-general Rajeev Mehta and the tainted Lalit Bhanot (Chairman, Preparation Committee, Asian Games) explaining them the circumstances and asking them to give the national team an exposure.

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“However, disregarding all facts, the IOA chose to stick to its original stance of sending teams ranked between 1-8 to take part, thus turning a blind eye to Indian football in the continental Games,” AIFF alleged.

It is not only sad but also discouraging for all who’ve been working so hard to get their country a name. It is important for the respective associations to realize that until unless a team isn’t taught to deal with the other, winning anyway gets difficult. It doesn’t matter if we win every game we play, what matters is we learn and improve.

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