Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan, and goalie Gurpreet Singh Sandhu were picked for the 22-member Indian men’s football squad for the 2023 Asian Games on Tuesday. Igor Stimac, the national team’s head coach, will be taking charge of the Blue Tigers when they go to Hangzhou, China.
Despite early opposition from the sports ministry as the national squad failed to achieve the internal qualifying standards, the All India Football Federation was determined to send the national side to the continental tournament in China.
The Indian groups, both men’s and women’s, were ranked outside of top eight in the continent, putting the Blue Tigers’ appearance in China in jeopardy, as the sports ministry demands teams to be placed among the top eight in the confederation to be granted permission to compete in the competition.
Stimac pleaded with India’s Prime Minister to allow the squad to compete in the renowned continental championship, noting the squad’s previous stellar results. Stimac guided the squad to back-to-back victories this year, claiming the Intercontinental Cup and then a thumping triumph in the SAFF Championship.
Following the AIFF’s pleas, the ministry eventually confirmed both the men’s and women’s squads and let the teams to fly to China for the tournament.
The football competition at the Asian Games is typically limited to players under the age of 23. However, due to a one-year delay in hosting this edition of the event, the organizers have made an exception and allowed players who are 24 years old to participate. The cut-off date of birth has been fixed at January 1, 1999, for eligibility in the tournament.
The national football squad will compete in the Asian Games 2023 after skipping the 2018 event in Jakarta.
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