The Indian men’s and women’s football are set to take their place in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in September after the Sports Ministry granted an exemption despite the teams not meeting the criteria of being ranked among the top eight teams in the continent.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) had made an appeal to the Sports Ministry to allow the men’s and women’s team, ranked 18th and 11th, to participate in the Asian Games on the back of their impressive showing in recent months.
Sports Minister Anurag Thakur tweeted, “Our national football teams, both Men’s and Women’s, are set to participate in the upcoming Asian Games.
“The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, has decided to relax the rules to facilitate participation of both the teams, which were not qualifying as per the existing criterion.”
The men’s team won the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Cup in back-to-back months with some impressive performances. The women’s team won their first round of Olympic qualifiers in April by beating Kyrgyzstan over two legs.
AIFF President Mr 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.”
The national men’s team head coach Igor Stimac, who will coach the team at the Asian Games, had also urged for the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sports minister Anurag Thakur to allow the team to compete.
“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,” he said after the decision.
The Indian team will now play in the Asian Games for the first time since 2014 after 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.
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