Following the disappointing end to the 2023 King’s Cup, the Indian men’s national team and their governing body, the All India Football Federation (AIFF), face yet another uncertain scenario as they prepare for the 2023 Asian Games in China.
A 22-man squad is scheduled to depart for Hangzhou on September 16, but there remains uncertainty about the players’ availability.
This arises due to the fact that the Indian Super League (ISL) is set to commence around the same time, causing hesitation among clubs to release their players. Consequently, the AIFF are engaged in ongoing discussions with the ISL teams to resolve this matter.
However, as per a report from Hindustan Times, some players who participated in the King’s Cup were not provided return tickets for their journey back, keeping in mind their participation in the Asian Games. This contradicts the AIFF’s letter, which stated that the players would return to their respective clubs on September 11.
Khel Now reported that 12 players were affected by this situation, and a similar plan was in place for the India under-23 side, who are currently competing in the AFC Asian Cup under-23 qualifiers in China.
In response to the social media uproar surrounding these events, Shaji Prabhakaran, the secretary general of the AIFF, quickly refuted the allegations that the AIFF was attempting to prevent players from traveling.
Speaking to the Bridge, Prabhakaran stated:
“The allegations made on social media are false, the players will return to India according to the plan.”
Igor Stimac kept in the dark as AIFF looks to resolve issues with ISL clubs
On receiving clearance that both the men’s and women’s football teams could participate in the 2023 Asian Games, squad announcements were made immediately. Head coach Igor Stimac is poised to lead the men’s team.
Only the under-23 players with the inclusion of three senior players could play in the Asian Games. As a result, the AIFF opted for Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, and Sandesh Jhingan— a choice that appeared straightforward. In addition to this, most of the under-23 players represent the ISL clubs.
With the ISL starting on September 21, clubs are hesitant to send their players outside of the FIFA window. The AIFF has appealed to release a minimum of two players per team, but reluctance persists among the clubs.
With India scheduled to face host nation China on September 19, the situation presents challenges for Stimac, who is not yet familiar with the selected players. Nevertheless, the AIFF remains optimistic about finding a resolution before the team’s journey to China.