Union Sports Minister Anurag Singh Thakur on July 26 announced a development that thrilled the Indian football fans. He confirmed the participation of both the Men’s and Women’s team in the upcoming Asian Games at Hangzhou, China from September 23 to October 8, 2023.
The Sports Minister said, “Our national football teams, both Men’s and Women’s, are set to participate in the upcoming Asian Games.” He went on to explain that the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, decided to relax the rules to facilitate participation of both the teams, which were not qualifying as per the existing criterion. He also cited that the latest performances of the teams in the recent times led the Ministry to grant the relaxation.
India last participated in the football event of the Games in 2014. The men’s team finished 26th among the 29 teams, and the women ninth among 11.
The Indian men’s and women’s teams are ranked 18th and 11th in Asia, respectively. As per the July 10 guidelines by the ministry, only the teams ranked in the top eight could be considered for participation in the Games. This guideline by the ministry led to the non-qualification of the national team.
Soon after the Sports Minister’s announcement, India men’s team coach Igor Stimac thanked the minister and called it a “great day for Indian football”.
Meanwhile, AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey said that India’s mens and women’s football team’s participation in the Asian Games will give Indian football a big boost.
In recent times, the national teams have produced great results. The Indian men’s team remained undefeated for 11 consecutive matches and won three successive tournaments, including the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship.