In a last-ditch effort to save football from being dropped from the Asian Games, AIFF president Praful Patel met sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Football is one of the five sports that risks being axed from India’s Asian Games contingent along with basketball, handball, table tennis and sepak takraw. A final decision is expected on Thursday or Friday. Patel is believed to have made a strong case for football, while senior officials from other federations too have lobbied for the inclusion of their sports.
Sonowal met his officials Wednesday where he was updated about the tricky situation his ministry faced. He has been advised to take tough decisions by senior officials of the ministry despite the strong backlash they may face from the federations. “The minister has to consider the political implications as well. Several federation officials, including Praful Patel of the AIFF, met him today,” an official said.
The ministry has recommended the inclusion of 28 events made on the basis of the criteria laid down by the Centre. Asked if the federations can send teams at “no cost to the government”, the official said it is unlikely they will be allowed. AIFF is planning to send the men and women teams, training in China, to Incheon regardless of the Centre’s decision. This will cost them close to Rs 1.5 crore.
Moreover, the new norms state that no team can use India in their name until it is approved by the Centre,” the ministry official added.