Great news for fans across India: PM Modi on Indian football teams’ participation in Asian Games

New Delhi: India currently in 18th spot among countries under Asian Football Confederation

BY | Thursday, 27 July, 2023

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday hailed the confirmation of Indian men’s and women’s football teams’ participation in the upcoming Asian Games as great news for the fans of the sport in the country and said it will encourage upcoming talent.

The Indian men’s and women’s football teams are set to participate in the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, after the Sports Ministry decided to relax the selection criteria.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had earlier refused to clear the Indian football teams for the Asian Games on the ground that they were not ranked among the top 8 teams in Asia.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) then appealed to the Sports Ministry to allow the men’s and women’s sides to take part in the event with national senior team head coach Igor Stimac also seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention.

Tagging a tweet on the development by AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey, Modi said, “Great news for football fans across India! It will also encourage upcoming talent in this sport.”

“Good news for Indian football lovers! Our national football teams, both Men’s and Women’s, are set to participate in the upcoming Asian Games,” Sports Minister Anurag Thakur tweeted on Wednesday.

“The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, has decided to relax the rules to facilitate the participation of both the teams, which were not qualifying as per the existing criterion.

“Keeping in mind their latest performances in recent times, the Ministry decided to grant the relaxation. I am sure they will put their best foot forward in the Asian Games and make our country proud,” he added.

Since 2002, football in the Asian Games has been a U-23 affair with three players above that age being permitted in a team.

AIFF had earlier planned that Stimac would take an Under-23 Indian side to the September 23 to October 8 Asian Games after the King’s Cup in Thailand (September 7-10).

But the AIFF is bullish on sending its first team to Asian Games led by its talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri.

The AIFF has prepared a list of 50 under-23 players and forwarded it to the respective clubs. The idea is to raise another pool of under-23 players, who could be used for the AFC under-23 Asian Cup qualifiers and the King’s Cup in Thailand.

However, the Sports Ministry in a letter sent to IOA and all the National Sports Federations (NSFs) said that “for team events, only those sports which have achieved a ranking up to eighth among participating countries of Asia in the last one year should be considered for participation in Asian Games”.

Indian men’s team is nowhere close to the top-8 in Asia. It is currently in the 18th spot among countries under the Asian Football Confederation, while the women’s side is ranked 11th.

The AIFF then appealed to the sports ministry to reconsider the decision with even coach Stimac making a plea for an exception to be made for the football teams in a social media post.

IOA president PT Usha, however, is said to be not in favour of the national football team’s participation in the upcoming Asian Games, for which she had to face backlash from the fans.

But AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey, a BJP politician and who also happens to be IOA joint secretary, pushed for football teams’ participation in the Asian Games and met Home Minister Amit Shah in this regard.

Read more: Stimac seeks PM’s intervention for Indian football team’s participation at Asian Games

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