The decision of the Indian Olympics Association (IOA) to not send the Indian football teams for the 2018 Asian Games will affect not only the men's and women's football teams but the promising India Colts too, feels former India international Abhishek Yadav.
Yadav, the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Director of National Teams, revealed that there were plans for members of the Indian Arrows to join the men's camp and possibly compete at the Asian Games.
The revived Indian Arrows team included a majority of those who participated in the 2017 U-17 World Cup that was held in India and partook in the I-League 2017-18 season where they garnered 15 points from 18 games. The youngsters had given a good account of themselves and were marked out as a promising lot.
"As far as our men's team is concerned there are 11 U-23 players in the national team. We were considering to call some Indian Arrows players for the camp as well. It was a great opportunity for them to test themselves in the Asian Games. It is unfortunate," Yadav rued.
"We have not received any official confirmation but as things stand now we are not likely to go. At the same time, we remain hopeful about our chances. It is very important for us to participate for the development of our players," he added.
The women's team is currently undergoing a preparation camp in the hopes that the IOA may reverse their decision to exclude the teams. Yadav confirmed that the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS), as well as the Sports Authority of India (SAI), are on the same page as the AIFF.
"We will continue with our preparations (women's team) even if they (IOA) do not allow us to participate in the Asian Games. We will follow our schedule," Yadav continued.
"We are regularly in touch with MYAS and SAI. So they know what is our strategy for the next five years. Therefore, they are convinced and have been supportive all throughout."
AIFF General Secretary, Kushal Das also chipped in on the topic. "We had a meeting at the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. They also said that it would be very unfortunate if this happens. But unfortunately, the ministry does not have a say here. It is a decision completely made by the IOA but they (MYAS) said they will speak to concerned people to make them understand that the case of football is different.
"The kind of support the government has come up with has never happened before. They understand now that a lot is happening in football and it needs a differential treatment."
Das also revealed the federation's plans for the national team after the Asian Games. "Immediately after the Asian Games, we have the SAFF (South Asian Football Federation) Championships coming up followed by the [2019 AFC (Asian Football Confederation)] Asian Cup where a significant number of U-23 players will be part of the team.
"In March 2019, we have the AFC U-23 qualifiers. So there is a significant number of international tournaments coming up. This tour would have provided a great exposure all the way to the U-23 qualifiers."