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AIFF president meets sports minister on Asiad deadlock

Posted on Sep 03 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Sep 3 : All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel Wednesday met sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal in his last ditched attempt to clear the men and the women's football teams for the 2014 Asian Games slated for Sep 19-Oct 4 in the South Korean city of Incheon.

A top official in the AIFF told IANS that Patel, also a former union inister, met Sonowal in the morning and talks were positive.

"Praful Patel met the sports minister in the morning. As of now talks are positive. Patel had tried his best to convince Sonowal on the importance of sending football teams for the Asian Games. The government has already decided to support AIFF for hosting the U-17 World Cup in 2017 and we hope that the teams will be cleared for the Asian Games as well," the official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

Sonowal has been advised by his officials not to clear teams in five disciplines, including football -- where the men's team has won two gold medals. The recommendations for all the 28 events, in which India will be participating in Asian Games, have been made on the basis of the criteria laid down by the government.

Besides football, basketball, handball, table tennis and sepak takraw will also be axed if Sonowal strictly goes by his ministry officials' recommendations. The minister, however, wants to tread cautiously and take more time before taking the final call.

"The minister wants to take some more time before announcing the list. It is a very critical issue. We have made the recommendations on the basis of the criteria that we have set earlier. We have to go strictly by performance and rankings," a top official in the ministry told IANS.

It was important for the ministry to drop some disciplines after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) sent a list of 935 athletes and officials for the Asian Games. At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, the Indian contingent had 625 athletes and the ministry wants to keep the Incheon contingent around 700.

The Sports Authority of India is not impressed with the way the men's football team is performing. The under-23 team recently lost to arch-rivals Pakistan 0-2, which was their first defeat against the neighbours for the first time at home in 55 years. The men's team is ranked 26th while the women are ranked 11th in Asia.

The men's team, which won the gold medal twice in 1951 and 1962, are currently ranked 150th in the world. They have been clubbed with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in Group G and they have slim chances of qualifying for the round of 16.

The AIFF may have to shell out a whopping Rs.1.15 crore to send the U-23 men's and women's team to the Asian Games if Sonowal allows them to participate on no cost to the government-basis.

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