‘No Medal Hope’: IOA Refuses to Send Football Teams to Asian Games

The Indian Olympic Association has decided that India will not win a medal in football at the 2018 Asian Games.

More than a month before the Games even get underway in Indonesia, the IOA –or ‘Team India’ as it has rebranded itself on social media– has made an executive decision ‘following Government guidelines’ that the same sport that India hosted an age group World Cup in last year, is now, not good enough to participate at an event they have been invited for.

The ‘Government guidelines’ that the IOA is citing at this time is the rule that says India will send only those teams that are within the top 8 rankings among competing nations to Indonesia. Meaning, they believe India don’t stand a chance for a medal in football simply because the rankings say so. India are ranked 13th among the Asian Games teams.

Would this be a good time to point out that India is sending a 500+ contingent to the Asian Games?

Would that then mean India is expected to win at least 300 medals in Indonesia?

Has India become a sporting super power and forgot to inform, well, India?

After having been taken through the same drill before the last Asian Games as well, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has now simply volunteered to pay for the travel and stay of their teams in Indonesia and are awaiting a reply from the Narinder Batra-led IOA.

"I wrote a letter to the IOA explaining our disappointment and unhappiness of this decision without really consulting with us and trying to understand what is happening in football world. If expenses are an issue we are willing to pay for the team's travel and stay," AIFF general secretary Kushal Das said.

If India do miss out, this will be the first time since the 1994 Hiroshima Asiad that the team will not be represented at the Games.

Rankings Not Correct Measure

Football at the Asian Games is an Under-23 event with only three over-age players being allowed. Interestingly though, the rankings that have been taken into account by the IOA are that of the senior team. It is Sunil Chhetri’s Blue Tiger’s who are ranked 14th in Asia but the players we would have seen in Indonesia would be more from Amarjit Singh Kiyam’s Under-17 team that played the World Cup at home last year.

After having invested millions on grooming the young stars who took the field at the World Cup, would another outing have been too much for the powers that be?

Why Refuse Exposure?

Unlike track-and-field events or tennis or hockey, age-group football doesn't have too many events that India could send their players to. So, when the opportunity does arise to level up against rivals from the continent, why not participate and see how the team measures up? Why simply reject the idea based on the flawed logic of rankings?

Especially at a time when India is finally embracing the sport?

Last year the country came together to host the Under-17 FIFA World Cup. India has qualified for the Asian Cup next year after a gap of 11 years and a lot of the Under-23 stars will be part of that team as well. So why not let them face off against others of their age-group?

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