The Indian men’s and women’s football teams will now be able to participate in the upcoming Asian Games, scheduled to be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23, after the Sports Ministry on Wednesday granted an exemption.
The big development comes weeks after it was reported that the football teams will not be able to participate in the continental event as per the existing criterion of the sports ministry.
Notably, sports ministry’s rule states that in team sports, only those in the top eight will get the nod and Indian national football men’s and women’s teams are currently ranked 18th and 11th respectively. However, an exemption was announced by Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Wednesday, confirming the participation of both Blue Tigers and Blue Tigress in the showpiece event.
“Good news for Indian football lovers! Our national football teams, both Men’s and Women’s, are set to participate in the upcoming Asian Games,” said Thakur in a tweet.
“The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, has decided to relax the rules to facilitate the participation of both teams, which were not qualifying as per the existing criterion.Keeping in mind their latest performances in recent times, the Ministry decided to grant the relaxation. I am sure they will put their best foot forward in the Asian Games and make our country proud,” he added.
Notably, the exemption was granted after men’s national team head coach Igor Stimac had appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and allow the team’s participation.
After the development, the Indian team will now play in the Asian Games for the first time since 2014 as the same criteria had ruled it out of the 2018 Games in Jakarta.
Notably, Football in the Asian Games is a U-23 tournament with three players above that age being also permitted in a team.