AFC lauds Indian team for its Asian Cup 2019 performance

India has made a “remarkable” progress in football in recent years, according to AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor John.

India made a spirited effort but ended up going down 2-0 against UAE.   -  AFP

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) General Secretary Dato Windsor John on Sunday commended the Indian team for its impressive performance at the Asian Cup so far, saying India had made a “remarkable” progress in football in recent years.

India secured a stunning 4-1 win over Thailand before going down 2-0 to host United Arab Emirates in a group match in which Sunil Chhetri and Co. had more clear chances than their opponents.

“India has performed commendably in the Asian Cup 2019 and the opening victory against Thailand, which was their first in 55 years in the competition’s history, is testament to the development of Indian football and the continued dedication of the [All India Football Federation],” Windsor said.

‘A little unfortunate’

“Despite their narrow defeat against UAE, they showed great character and resilience to compete against one of the tournament’s heavyweights on home soil and anyone who was there will feel India were a little unfortunate. I believe India can take great pride with their performances,” he was quoted as saying in a statement released by AIFF.

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Asked if India had turned out to be a surprise package in the tournament, the AFC top official said, “India’s performance may have come as a surprise for some, but at the AFC, we are well aware of the remarkable progress of football in the country over the last decade. The AFC’s Vision and Mission underlines our commitment to provide tailor-made assistance for our Member Associations and as the world’s second-largest country, we have long recognised the potential of India. Over the years, we have continued to work closely with the AIFF to raise the standards of the sport through various President Initiatives and development programmes.”

A ‘paradigm shift’

Indian football had shown clear signs of scaling new heights, observed Windsor.

"Sunil (Chhetri, in picture) is a fine example that nothing is impossible," says Dator Windsor John. Photo: AP

 

“These include the results of the U-16 team at the recently concluded AFC U-16 Championship Malaysia 2018, where they qualified for the quarterfinals for the first time since the 2002 edition, as well as the success of Bengaluru FC who have reached the AFC Cup final in 2016 and the Inter-Zone final in 2017 and the Inter Zone semifinal in 2018,” he said.

“We hope that the commendable display by the Indian team will continue to accelerate this paradigm shift,” he added.

‘Proud ambassador’ Chhetri

Asked about Sunil Chhetri’s feat (he became the second-highest goal-scorer in the world among active players), Windsor said, “Sunil’s record clearly exemplifies his desire and professionalism both on and off the pitch. He has been a proud ambassador of Indian football for club and country and now, with two goals in the UAE, he has proven his abilities to perform on the continent’s ultimate stage. I am confident that this achievement will serve as an inspiration to young aspiring footballers in India and on the continent. With hard work, dedication and a commitment to excellence, Sunil is a fine example that nothing is impossible.”

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