The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Sunday, July 1, blasted the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for not clearing the national men and women's football teams for Asian Games 2018, starting August 18 in Jakarta.
The AIFF, in an official statement, has accused the IOA of not being able to "distinguish the specific needs of each sport in the county".
The strong rebuttal comes after the IOA omitted football teams from India's entry list, which was confirmed on Saturday.
The football teams were not given the clearance because the IOA is of the view that they will be unable to bring home medals from the multi-sport continental tournament, according to The Indian Express.
IOA has enforced the government guidelines, according to which teams who are only within top eight rankings in Asia will be allowed to participate in Asian Games.
Notably, senior national team coach Stephen Constantine had made an appeal to the IOA to reverse its decision. Eleven players from the senior side are part of the U-23 squad, which was expected to take part in the Asian Games.
Indian men's football team is currently ranked 14th in the continent but have achieved quite a lot of success in the recent past. The Blue Tigers have broken into the top 100 after being ranked as low as 173 three years back and have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in eight years, as pointed by the AIFF.
At a time when Indian football is gaining more traction than ever, IOA's decision has raised eyebrows. However, this is not the first such instance as the governing body of Olympic sports had denied clearance to football teams ahead of the 2014 edition only to reverse its decision in the eleventh hour.
IOA has never bothered about Indian football's development: AIFF
"Despite explaining to the Indian Olympic Association that football as a global sport needs to be looked at differently, and after having explained the tremendous success that Indian Football has achieved in the last three years which include a jump in FIFA Rankings from 173 to 97 (at present), qualification to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the successful hosting of FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 and the various grassroots and youth development programmes undertaken by the AIFF, the IOA chose not to clear Indian Football Teams for the forthcoming Asian Games," the AIFF statement reads.
It added: "In this regard Mr. Praful Patel, President, AIFF even made a call to Mr. Narinder Batra to explain the circumstances, and accordingly letters were sent to Mr. Rajeev Mehta, Secretary General, IOA and Mr. Lalit Bhanot, Chairman, Preparation Committee, Asian Games.
"However, disregarding all facts, the IOA chose to stick to its original stance of sending teams ranked between 1-8 to take part, thus turning a blind eye to Indian Football in the Continental Games."
"IOA's stance and myopic view come in sharp contrast to the support of both the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Sports Authority of India, both of whom who have been hugely supportive of Indian Football and recognised AIFF's efforts in the last three years.
"It is indeed a sad state of affairs for sport in India that the IOA is unable to distinguish the specific needs of each sport in the country. The IOA was never even bothered to even once discuss with the AIFF the strategy and plans for developing football in India."
The AIFF is reportedly expected to get in direct touch with Rajyavardhan Singh, the Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, in a bid to force the IOA to overturn its decision.