Chhetri rues football team’s Asian Games snub

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Kolkata, Aug 16 (IANS) India captain Sunil Chhetri on Thursday said the football team needs to be given a chance to perform after the the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) decided not to allow the side to participate in the upcoming 2018 Asian Games.

“Suddenly India is not going to win medals. You got to give them a chance to do that. In future, I just hope in future all authorities can help in that and the boys get enough opportunity, especially the U-16 team as they are really good,” Chhetri told reporters on the sidelines of the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club annual awards here.

The 34-year old, who is India’s all-time highest scorer, was awarded Best Sportsperson of the Country.

“This is the government thing, not in my hands. If the boys would have got a chance, it would have been lovely. Any tournament the under-age teams play is great and I just hope in the future we can neglect these things. I hope we can rectify things,” Chhetri added.

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The IOA decided against sending the football teams to the Asian Games starting Saturday in Jakarta and Palembang.

As per IOA regulations, only those national teams which are ranked between 1-8 at the continental level, were cleared for the Games.

This will be the first time since the 1994 Hiroshima edition that an Indian team will not take part in the football competition of the Asian Games, which is an Under-23 event with three over-age players being allowed.

Chhetri heaped praise on the India Under-16 team which recently stunned reigning Asian champions Iraq for the first time at the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Tournament.

“I am very hopeful about the U-16 team. Against Iraq, we had more ball possession. We had more attacks. (Coach) Bibiano (Fernandes) is doing a great job and the U-16 team has potential to do great things in future. We have to preserve them,” the Indian captain expressed.

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On the India U-20 side upsetting Argentina in the COTIF Cup, Chhetri said: “The U-20 team, I saw a few clippings and we had to defend a lot against Argentina. And that was one game. I haven’t seen them much but it’s a great result to beat Argentina.”

Chhetri may not take part in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championships starting next month, the ace forward said adding coach Stephen Constantine wants the younger crop to get a chance.

“See it’s not a declaration but I think I have had enough of SAFF. I was fortunate to play SAFF three or four times. I am not declaring anything right now but I had a chat with the coach and he said he wants to bring a lot of junior players which I think is a very good thing,” he said.

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“I am not trying to demean the other teams in the SAFF region. It’s a great opportunity for the youngsters to come to the table and show the coach that they also have potential,” Chhetri said adding: “I think even with the U-23 team, we are very strong in the SAFF region. I hope they do well and we retain the championship.”

–IANS

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