After a couple of weeks of turmoil with respect to the Indian football team, it is finally good news for them. The Sports Ministry of India had previously made a rule that only the teams in the top 8 rankings in Asia will be allowed to participate in the Asian Games.
India is presently ranked 18th in Asia in football and therefore couldn’t fulfil the criteria set by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India. As a result, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had not given a green signal to the Indian football team to participate.
But on 26th July 2023, the rules were relaxed only for the Indian football team. After weeks of speculation, there is certainty in the air for the Indian football team now.
Even the women’s football team of India weren’t initially allowed to participate as they are ranked 11th in the rankings of Asia.
“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. 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,” tweeted Anurag Thakur, who is the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports in India.
“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,” Thakur added in this Tweet.
Team India has been in rollicking form in men’s football
Led by Head Coach Igor Stimac and talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri, the Indian men’s football team has been on a roll. Post the completion of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23, India has won 3 back-to-back international tournaments.
In the month of March, Sunil Chhetri and co. had won the Hero Tri-Nation Series 2023. Then in June 2023, India won the Hero Intercontinental Cup, after beating Lebanon in the finals.
Following their triumph in these 2 tournaments, the Blue Tigers went on to win the SAFF Championship 2023 as well.
India had defeated Kuwait in the finals through the penalty round, in what was a close and gritty affair at the Shree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.
Sunil Chhetri is in phenomenal form
With 5 goals under his belt, Sunil Chhetri finished as the leading goal-scorer of the SAFF Championship 2023.
The talismanic skipper and striker of India has so far netted 92 goals for India and is the leading goal-scorer of the Indian football team.
He will well go down as one of the most influential footballers to have donned the Indian team jersey. The 38-year-old footballer’s finishing touch, his dribbling skills and his astute leadership sets him apart from the other players of India.