New Delhi: The humiliating defeat against Pakistan in a friendly match at Bangalore could cost the Sunil Chetris dear, as a miffed sports ministry is seriously contemplating not clearing the football team for the Asian Games.
“A final decision would only be taken after a week, but there is every chance the government would not bear the cost of the men’s and women’s football teams in the Asian Games. Of course, the AIFF (All India Football Federation) can send the team on their own,” a senior ministry official told The Telegraph.
Interestingly, both teams are now in China, preparing for the Asian Games. The preparatory tours have been cleared by the SAI.
Sources said the senior ministry and SAI officials are extremely unhappy with the way Wim Koevermans’s boys lost to Pakistan. The SAI director general, Jiji Thompson, who was present in Bangalore, had expressed his displeasure.
In the first of the two friendly matches, India managed to edge Pakistan by a solitary goal but lost 0-2 in the second match.
In case the government does not clear the teams participation and the AIFF also decides against sending them at their own cost, it would be the third time India would go unrepresented in football. In 1990 and 1994 the government had stopped the football team from going for the Asian Games.
India are two-time Asian Games champions — in 1951 and 1962 — and bagged the bronze in 1970. The sports ministry, it is believed, is of the view that only prospective medal winners and athletes, who have some chance of reaching the last eight, would be cleared for the Asian Games. The ministry is quite upset with the IOA for forwarding the list of a 954-member contingent, which includes 662 athletes in 34 disciplines.
The IOA list, which landed in the ministry on Saturday, was taken up for scrutiny on Monday with clear instructions from the top bosses to separate the medal prospects from the also ran athletes. While men and women football teams could be the casualties, some other disciplines like table tennis and sepak takraw may also not get the nod.
However, the only thing that can go in favour of football is the result of the team in the last Asian Games. India, then coached by Sukhwinder Singh, had reached the quarter-finals in Guangzhou.