Indian men's, women's football teams get exemption from Sports Ministry to participate in Asian Games (Ld)

July 26, 2023

New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) The Sports Ministry on Wednesday gave an exemption to Indian men’s and women’s football teams, allowing them to participate in the upcoming Asian Games, which will be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23.

The development comes weeks after it was reported that the football teams will not be taking part in the continental event as per the existing criterion of the sports ministry.

The sports ministry’s rule states that in team sports, only those in the top eight will get the nod and Indian national football men’s and women’s teams are currently ranked 18th and 11th respectively.

However, an exemption has been made and Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Wednesday confirmed the participation of both Blue Tigers and Blue Tigress in the continental showpiece event.

“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,” said Thakur in a tweet.

“The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, has decided to relax the rules to facilitate the participation of both 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.

The Indian men’s team, which will be participating in the Asian Games for the first time after a nine-year gap, has clinched gold in the inaugural edition in 1951, followed by another top finish in 1962, and a bronze medal finish at the 1970 games.

Notably, the government’s criteria were relaxed after support poured from fans on various social media platforms and men’s national team head coach Igor Stimac had also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and allow the team’s participation.

The Indian team will now play in the Asian Games for the first time since 2014 as the same criteria had ruled it out of the 2018 Games in Jakarta.

Football in the Asian Games is a U-23 tournament with three players above that age are also permitted in a team.

The AIFF officials on Wednesday thanked the sports ministry for clearing the teams’ participation in the Asian Games.

“The All India Football Federation (AIFF) expresses its sincere gratitude to the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, the honourable Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs, Anurag Thakur ji and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for their cooperation and understanding in allowing both the men’s and women’s teams to compete at the Asian Games,” the AIFF said.

AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey said, “It’s indeed an important day for Indian Football and a testament to our resolution to develop the sport in India. We thank the Government of India and the Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs for their support and for providing special compensation to Indian Football for the 19th Asian Games.

“Indian Football has been on an unprecedented rise recently, and I believe this impetus will further boost our players’ morale in all upcoming events. It’s my honour to represent the All India Football Federation and with moments like this, it further encourages our steadfast commitment to continue developing the ecosystem in the country,” Kalyan Choubey said.

The AIFF Secretary General, Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran said: “It is very encouraging for Indian football that the government has allowed the participation of men’s and women’s football teams in the Asian Games. This decision of the MYAS has further encouraged all our stakeholders, and with the game time at Asian Games, our players will gain tremendous exposure playing against some of the giants in Asian football. We will continue to work hard with a focus to deliver success on and off the pitch and reach our goals as per Strategic Roadmap Vision 2047.”

The Indian men’s team head coach Igor Stimac said: “It’s a great day for Indian football and an enormously encouraging decision by the honourable Sports Minister Anurag Thakur ji and our government! Big thanks to all of them for allowing us the opportunity to challenge the best teams in the Asian Games.

“I will also like to give a big thanks to our President, Kalyan Chaubey, Secretary General Dr. Shaji Prabhakaran and all the others for this,” he said.

–IANS

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