New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is hopeful that the Narinder Batra-led Indian Olympic Association (IOA) will change its stance and allow the football teams to participate in the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia.
As per IOA regulations, only those national teams which are ranked between 1-8 at the continental level, were cleared for the Games.
Therefore, the men’s team, who are currently ranked 14 in Asia, were denied an opportunity despite a string of good performances of late. India have also qualified for the marquee Asian Cup after eight years.
“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,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told reporters at a press conference here.
Das said while the team is “far behind” from meeting IOA’s criteria, the development of the national teams won’t stop regardless of the decision.
“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,” Das said.
This will be the first time since the 1994 Hiroshima edition that an Indian football team will not take part in the Asian Games, which is an U-23 event with three over-age players being allowed.
Alleging that there has not been an official communication from the IOA, Das said the Olympic governing body flouted protocol.
“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.”
Asked about sending the men’s and women’s teams at the AIFF’s own expense, Das said they are ready.
“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 and after that there has been no communication as to whether the IOA wants to engage further or not. Even (Praful) Patel, the AIFF President spoke to IOA President Narinder Batra and he was told the same thing “to draft an explanation for reconsideration.”
According to reports, Patel had called up Batra, IOA secretary-general Rajeev Mehta and Lalit Bhanot (Chairman, Preparation Committee, Asian Games) explaining to them the circumstances and also sent letters.