Following Indian Olympic Association’s decision in not clearing the Indian Football Team(s) to participate in the forthcoming Asian Games, All India Football Federation general secretary Kushal Das labelled the move as “sad and disheartening”. Addressing a press conference at the AIFF Football Headquarters in Delhi, Mr. Das reflected on the issue, the willingness of sending the Team(s) at AIFF’s expense, the failure of the IOA to recognize the achievements of Indian Football and much more.
Abhishek Yadav, present Director of National Teams, also present on the occasion informed on how the decision affects the future generation of Indian Football being deprived of valuable exposure.
Has there been an official communication from IOA’s side?
Never! There hasn’t been any official announcement from IOA about the same and all we got has been a verbal communication. The IOA never followed the protocol of communication and did not even inform us as to why the Football Team(s) have been barred from participating in the Asian Games.
Why don’t you send the Football Team(s) at your own expense?
We have expressed our disappointment to IOA officially wherein we have even mentioned that we are willing to bear expenses of travel and stay on our own.
The IOA had asked for an explanation way back on June 4, 2018 and after that there has been no communication as to whether the IOA wants to engage further or not. Even Mr. (Praful) Patel, the AIFF President spoke to IOA President Mr. Narinder Batra and he was told the same thing – ‘to draft an explanation for reconsideration’.
Football is a global and a different kind of sport. We have jumped from 173 to 97 in FIA Rankings since 2015 and it is time that the IOA looked at things differently.
How will this affect Indian Football?
11 Players in the Senior National Team setup are U-23 and immediately after the Asian Games we head to the SAFF Championship where a significant number of youth players will be part of the squad. Moving ahead, in 2019 we have the AFC U-23 Qualifiers and this would have been a great learning exposure for the players.
It is sad and disheartening that the IOA has adopted such an approach. We were 173 in 2015 and as of today we are 97 in the FIFA rankings which explains the significant efforts made for the evolution of Football in India. The fact that we have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup and have setup various grassroots initiatives and Youth Leagues are a testament of that effort.
Even for the Women National Team there have been significant efforts to develop the squad and they were already in camp and were supposed to play a tournament in Spain as preparation for the Asian Games.
Abhishek Yadav, present Director of National Teams, AIFF sitting next, added:
We were considering calling up U-17 World Cup players for the preparatory Camp for the Asian Games. The Indian Arrows’ players who have the experience of playing in the FIFA U-17 World Cup and the I-League represent the next generation of Indian Football. The Asian Games would have been a huge experience for them which would have served Indian Football in the long run. We are pushing aggressively to develop our players and the more exposure the players get, the better it is for Indian Football.
Has the Government been supportive?
Kushal Das said: The Government and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports have been hugely supportive of our developmental activities. We have received an unprecedented support from their side which is significantly much more than what we used to get.
However, the decision of not allowing the Team is solely of the IOA and not of the MYAS.
Are you optimistic that the IOA will change their stance?
We are still optimistic that the team will receive the green signal for participation. We are asking for an explanation and maybe the IOA will reconsider their stance.
We are ranked currently 13th in Asia (if you leave aside Australia), and if the IOA criteria is the top 8 teams, we are not behind. But regardless of the IOA decision, the development process will never stop. We will continue the process of evolving our National Teams one way or the other as the ultimate goal is to emerge as one of the top Asian nations in the near future.