The Indian football team has managed to win thousands of hearts by performing phenomenally in the recent past. But that isn’t enough to take them to the Asian Games, 2018 to be held in Indonesia. And football fans are devastated. With the FIFA World Cup into the quarterfinals stage, it is ironical that the Indian football team is caught in between a tussle that puts egos before the sport. In reports, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) recently announced the 524-member contingent for the upcoming Asian Games to be held from August 18, and shockingly, that coveted list did not feature our national football team that just won the Intercontinental Cup.
The Indian football team has managed to win thousands of hearts by performing phenomenally in the recent past. But that isn’t enough to take them to the Asian Games, 2018 to be held in Indonesia. And football fans are devastated. With the FIFA World Cup into the quarterfinals stage, it is ironical that the Indian football team is caught in a tussle that puts egos before the sport. In what has been reported, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) recently announced the 524-member contingent for the upcoming Asian Games to be held from August 18, and shockingly, that coveted list did not feature our national football team.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and IOA are currently at loggerheads, where the former has accused the latter of not having a proper ‘vision’ and even stated that they’d send the squad for the Asian Games on their own cost.
IOA, on the other hand, has stated that as per guidelines, India will send only those teams which are within the top eight among those nations competing at the Asian Games. This controversy has irked fans of Indian football who have united to fight for the team.
The ‘Blue Pilgrims’, the supporters group of the Indian national football team is showing their solidarity for the squad on social media and using the hashtag ‘InquilabEIndianFootball’ to root for them. A spokesperson for the Blue Pilgrims says, “The Indian football team has performed very well in the past at the Asian Games. But in the last two to three decades, we have not achieved considerable success at the games. The IOA has set a benchmark of considering only teams that they deem worthy of succeeding and getting India a medal at the AG. But our contention points are we’re going to play the AFC Asian Cup in January 2019 and have been grouped with UAE, Thailand and Bahrain. All three teams will participate in the Asian Games and it’s important for youngsters to face quality teams to achieve success next January.”
They believe that since the entire country is going to watch the Asian Games, it will attract the much-needed eyeballs for the beleaguered Indian football team, and make people aware that there’s a national team too that truly represents us. “Denying them the opportunity to play in the Asian Games will be a massive hit on the preparations and morale of the players. Give them a chance to prove their worth, give them a chance they deserve,” add the Blue Pilgrims.
Footballer Chethan Kumar BV, who led Karnataka in the Santosh Trophy team is deeply disappointed about not getting to see the Tigers in action at the Asian Games. “The team has to go and participate in higher level competitions only then can we know the progress and level of our team. After ISL, this is the first time they’re playing the Asian Cup, and playing the Asian Games will definitely give youngsters the required experience and exposure, irrespective of wins or losses.”
While it’s a tough task, Chethan hopes to see the Blue Tigers qualify for the 2026 World Cup at least. “Asian countries are doing well in the current WC. It’s about time India progressed at the Asian level and then at the world stage. We need a proper system where there’s focus on the youth and of course, proper infrastructure for young talent to grow. In Karnataka itself, it can be seen that BFC has just one ground to practice this isn’t enough,” he rues.
Football aficionado Anirudh Nagraj is upset, “This decision is baffling and absurd. Considering that the current iteration of the squad is the best we have had in years, it is a no-brainer that they should participate. But the IOA has turned a blind eye to progress; the enormous progress made by the Indian team. They have forgotten our recent Intercontinental Cup victory. They have forgotten the crowds for the league games. We have been a side that have performed well in the Asian Games, so why not give them a chance? We don’t need another plea from our captain, do we? The decision is embarrassing. I hope it is overturned because if not, the spirit of Indian football will be squashed and the slogan, “Come on India, let’s football” just becomes a myth.”
The Blue Pilgrims spokesperson adds, “We’re requesting the stakeholders responsible for clearing the team’s participation in the Asian Games to take due action with the help of the petition that we’ve started. The petition will also help other sports fans in India understand the problems faced by our athletes.”
It’s about time we back our football team by signing into the hashtag, and giving Indian football a push....