National coach Wim Koevermans on Monday named five players aged over 23, including skipper Sunil Chhetri, in the provisional squad for this year’s Asian Games.
The inclusion of these players in the Incheon Games probables has thrown a spanner in the works with regard to their participation in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League.
The Incheon Asian Games will be held from September 19 to October 4 while the ISL is likely to kick-off in second week of September. The players who will be picked up by the ISL franchisees are likely to miss not just the pre-season warm up but also the first three weeks of the tournament.
Four out of the five senior players selected by Koevermans for the camp are strikers, which isn’t surprising considering India’s lack of firepower up front. Apart from Chhetri, his Bangalore FC strike partner Robin Singh, Football Players Association of India’s player of the year Balwant Singh of Churchill Brothers, Sporting Clube de Goa’s Victorino Fernandes and Salgaocar’s Francis Fernandes have been short-listed by Koevermans for the Asian Games.
As per the Olympic rules, only three players over 23 can be a part of the squad.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das insisted the franchisees will have to release players for national duty. But there is no such written provision in the ISL yet, with the organisers saying they’ll wait till the player drafts before making an official comment.
“It’s too early to say how it will impact the league because the player draft hasn’t happened yet. The five players who have been short-listed are not contracted to us at the moment. If they are picked up by the teams in the draft, then it up to the respective franchisees to deal with this issue,” an IMG-Reliance official said.
“There can also be a possibility that these players will not be picked if they are going to miss a major part of the season. We see that happen in IPL as well, where the franchise doesn’t pick a player if he isn’t available for the entire duration.”
Curiously, Bangalore FC, Salgaocar and Churchill Brothers have all refused to release their players for the ISL. Four players out of the five shortlisted by Koevermans belong to these three clubs.
IMG-R is hoping that a settlement is reached before next month’s player draft.
Meanwhile, Das said the team will have a preparatory camp in Europe in July in the run up to the Asian Games. Following the tour, there will be a camp in Bangalore where they are likely to play practice matches against international teams. The team will have another foreign tour — in either China, Japan or South Korea – before reaching Incheon. India had reached the pre-quarterfinals of the 2010 Asian Games, which was the country’s best performance since the 1982 Delhi Asiad.