By India Today Sports Desk: Igor Stimac, manager of the Indian men’s football team, hailed the Indian Sports Ministry’s decision to allow them to participate in the upcoming Asian Games, which will begin on September 23 in Hangzhou, China. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) previously declined to clear Indian football teams for the Asian Games because they were not ranked in Asia’s top eight. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) then petitioned the Sports Ministry to enable both the men’s and women’s teams to compete in the coveted event.
After learning that India had received clearance, national senior team head coach Igor Stimac, who had previously requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention, expressed gratitude to the authorities and stated that he would use the upcoming King’s Cup in Thailand to prepare the players for the Asian Games.
“It’s a great day for #Indianfootball, an enormously encouraging decision by the ministry of sports, honourable sport minister @ianuragthakur and our government! Big thanks to them for recognising our recent results and making it possible to challenge ourselves at the Asian Games against big footballing countries. Big thanks to our President @kalyanchaubey, SG @Shaji4Football and all the others who were involved to help us win this battle! At the end the most important thing, the love our supporters showed by sending millions of msgs and tweets, proving how much passion we have in India for football! Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Stimac tweeted.
India’s Sports Ministry has eased the restrictions to allow both men’s and women’s football teams to compete in the Asian Games. Both of these teams were previously barred from participating because they did not meet the ministry’s criteria of being among the top eight-ranked teams on the continent.
Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, in a tweet posted earlier in the day, confirmed the news. “The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, has decided to relax the rules to facilitate the participation of both the 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.”