The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Sunday alleged that Narinder Batra-led Indian Olympic Association (IOA) ‘lacks vision and competence’ after the national football team was not cleared for participation in the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia.
"It’s clear the IOA lacks the vision and competence to understand that football is a global sport played by 212 countries and that the top 5 teams in Asia play in the FIFA World Cup where the level of competition is far superior to the Asian Games,” the AIFF said in a statement.
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 U-23 event with three over-age players being allowed.
As per IOA regulations, only those national teams which are ranked between 1-8 at the continental level, were cleared for the Games.
Accordingly, ‘Blue Tigers’, who are currently ranked 14 in Asia were denied an opportunity despite a string of good performances in international matches of late.
India have qualified for the marquee Asian Cup after a gap of eight years, having last played 2011.
“In fact, the premier football competition in Asia is the AFC Asian Cup where India has qualified after 8 years. IOA’s stance and myopic view comes in sharp contrast to the support of both the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Sports Authority of India, both of whom who have been hugely supportive of Indian Football and recognised AIFF’s efforts in the last 3 years,” AIFF said.
It was also learnt that AIFF president Praful Patel had called up Batra, secretary-general Rajeev Mehta and the tainted Lalit Bhanot (Chairman, Preparation Committee, Asian Games) explaining them the circumstances and also sent letters.
“However, disregarding all facts, the IOA chose to stick to its original stance of sending teams ranked between 1-8 to take part, thus turning a blind eye to Indian football in the continental Games.
“It is indeed a sad state of affairs for sport in India that the IOA is unable to distinguish the specific needs of each sport in the country. The IOA was never even bothered to even once discuss with the AIFF the strategy and plans for developing football in India,” the AIFF alleged.