January 23, 2022 will be remembered as a black day for Indian football as the Blue Tigresses, the India Women’s national football team, could not play their game against Chinese Taipei in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup at the D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai due to multiple positive COVID-19 cases.
India has currently that many positive COVID-19 cases within the playing squad that they did not have the minimum of 13 players for the game to go ahead, which has meant for the hosts that they as per the ‘Special Rules Applicable to AFC Competitions during the COVID-19 pandemic’ (Special Rules) not only do not play the game today but also are withdrawn from the competition, meaning India are out due to the pandemic.
The match against Iran does not count, the games against Chinese Taipei and China will not be played.
This is a disaster for Indian football as a whole and for the Blue Tigresses this outbreak means that their dreams of staying in the hunt for a spot in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup quarterfinals and then potentially reaching the 2023 FIFA World Cup inter-continental playoffs is over. I feel sad for the players, coaches and support staff, who had prepared over the last six months in a global pandemic, staying in a bio bubble for all this time. This was not supposed to end like this.
…chance to play in the #2023FIFAWomensWorldCup.
It’s a sad day for #IndianFootball.
Thanks all to the #pandemic 😢
— Arunava Chaudhuri | arunfoot (@Arunfoot) January 23, 2022
And who is to blame for all this? I think it is not the time to try and establish, who is to blame for this breach in the Indian bio bubble. But I’d at least would want a medical look back at where the breach could have occurred, should India have moved to Mumbai earlier from Kochi, etc.
I know on social media reactions have been blunt and direct, pointing fingers at the AIFF and the top brass, but I feel that is just too easy as I would like to see a thorough investigation into how the bubble could have been breached to avoid such instances in future, but that is easier said than done as breaches of bio bubbles in the Indian Super League and I-League in recent weeks have shown, the Omicron variant is much more transmissible than earlier variants of the Coronavirus.
Still the AIFF needs to be accountable for what has happened, at least a little bit. Many fans have complained about the lack of communication on what the situation was pre-match with journalists informing the outside world from the venue that Team India doesn’t seem to be turning up at the ground. Surely there are AFC media protocols involved, but this is something that can be better coordinated and not wait until 7.30pm kick-off to announce, the team is not coming and we are out of the competition.
I still feel it was right for the AIFF and India to go ahead to host the ongoing 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup despite a global pandemic. Further we need to focus more on women’s football across the pyramid to strengthen the game as in a few months, India is supposed to host the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and hopefully then, our girls can play the whole tournament.
In the end, I wish everyone infected a speedy recovery, the others to stay safe and for all to have the mental strength to overcome this tragic situation and do their best for India to compete in future competitions. The last six months hopefully were only a start to a brighter future for women’s football in India.
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