The prospects for the Indian national football team at the 2023 Asian Games have taken a hit as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Indian Super League (ISL) clubs failed to agree on releasing players for the upcoming multidisciplinary continental event. This article delves into the details of this standoff and its potential impact on India’s participation in the Asian Games.
**The Key Players’ Dilemma:**
Two senior players of the Indian squad, Sandesh Jhingan and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, are set to miss the Hangzhou Games due to their club commitments in the ISL, which commences on September 21. The Blue Tigers have important matches scheduled against China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh on September 19, 21, and 24, respectively.
The clubs are not obligated to release players for this competition as it falls outside the FIFA international window. According to an ISL club official, some players have already spent a substantial amount of time outside the FIFA windows, making it challenging to release them during the ongoing season.
Even though FC Goa considered releasing Ayush S and Sandesh Jhingan for the Asian Games, Jhingan’s absence would have been a significant blow as he is a crucial first-team player. Other prominent clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan Super Giant shared similar sentiments, making the situation more complex.
**Promising Youngster’s Dilemma:**
Amarjit Singh Kiyam, a promising young talent with Punjab FC, is the only player from a newly-promoted ISL side who received a call-up. However, even his club is reluctant to release him due to his potential role as a first-team regular in the ISL campaign.
**Igor Stimac’s Plea:**
The impasse has persisted since August, leading to Indian national team head coach Igor Stimac appealing to clubs via social media to release players. Stimac emphasized the importance of supporting national teams in various upcoming tournaments, including the Asian Games.
**Special Exemption and Team Composition:**
Initially, the Indian football teams were not allowed to participate in the Asian Games due to their rankings not meeting the Sports Ministry’s criteria. However, after a request from the AIFF president, special exemptions were granted.
As a result, India is expected to field a relatively inexperienced squad, primarily consisting of players who participated in the AFC U23 Asian Cup qualifiers. The coaching duties may also shift to Clifford Miranda, the U23 men’s team coach.
**Impact on India’s Chances:**
Without key players who have recently achieved success, India’s prospects in the Asian Games are likely to diminish. The clash with the ISL has raised questions about the availability of the best players for the national team.
The uncertainty surrounding player availability for the 2023 Asian Games football competition is a significant concern for Indian football. The clash between club commitments and national duty highlights the challenges faced in balancing domestic and international football. The ultimate impact on India’s performance in the tournament remains to be seen as the nation hopes to put its best foot forward on the continental stage.