Sunil Chhetri only known face in 17-member Indian football team for Asian Games, Stimac’s status not known | undefined News
The majority of clubs initially expressed reluctance to release the 22 players originally named in the Indian squad due to scheduling conflicts between the Asian Games’ football competition and the Indian Super League (ISL), which is set to commence on September 21.
After prolonged and intensive negotiations, the AIFF was able to unveil a somewhat under-strength team, which retained nine players from the original 22, including Sunil Chhetri. The remaining slots were filled with less experienced players from various clubs.
Despite the challenges, the national federation managed to put together this team just three days before its departure for China. They expressed their gratitude to the Indian Super League clubs and the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) for their cooperation in facilitating the release of players.
But there are doubts whether Stimac will travel to Hangzhou at the helm of such an under-strength team. He had earlier said that the Asian Games was a priority.
It could be a rare instance of India sending an under-strength football team in a major competition. The only saving grace was the inclusion of the current Indian football poster boy Chhetri, who recently became a father.
The Indian team is scheduled to begin its Asian Games campaign with a match against China on September 19, followed by games against Bangladesh (September 21) and Myanmar (September 24).
The top two teams from the six groups will make it to the pre-quarterfinals, with four best-ranked third-placed sides also qualifying.
The football team did not meet the qualifying criteria to be part of the Asian Games contingent but got clearance from the sports ministry on the prospect of the best side being picked, with Chhetri, key defender Sandesh Jhingan and number one goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the squad.
But the ISL clubs had other plans as they refused to release their players as doing so would mean missing three to four matches. They are, however, not bound to release the players as the Asian Games did not fall in the FIFA international match window.
A hapless AIFF was even hoping that the ISL clubs would release any 22 players from the registered 50 for the Asian Games to allow the senior men’s team to participate in the continental showpiece.
The under-strength team has just two goalkeepers, instead of three in a normal 22-member squad, and it could be problematic if there are injuries during the tournament.
The team will also have to pick 10 outfield players from 16 and any further injury can lead to limiting the number of substitutions and most of the players will have to be on the field for long time.
Bengaluru FC, which had six players in the original 22, released only Chhetri. In the absence of Bengaluru’s Gurpeet, the Indian goal will be manned by either Gurmeet Singh or Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem.
East Bengal, which had two players in the earlier squad, did not have any in the final team. Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan have one player each in Gurkirat Singh and Sumit Rathi respecvtively.
Many of final team players have not played too many matches for their respective ISL clubs and have not been regular first XI players.
The Indian Squad:
Gurmeet Singh, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, Sumit Rathi, Narender Gahlot, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Samuel James, Rahul KP, Abdul Rabeeh Anjukandan, Ayush Dev Chhetri, Bryce Miranda, Azfar Noorani, Rahim Ali, Vincy Bareto, Sunil Chhetri, Rohit Danu, Gurkirat Singh, Aniket Jadhav.
(With PTI inputs)