Asian Games 2023: Nothing is lost yet, says AIFF boss Kalyan Chaubey

The idea should be to bring the best out of available resources rather than worrying about who’s missing, says Chaubey

Igor Stimac (right) with star India defender Sandesh Jhingan (photo: AIFF)
Igor Stimac (right) with star India defender Sandesh Jhingan (photo: AIFF)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

An undercooked Indian team will open their Asian Games football campaign against hosts China on Tuesday, 19 September, but All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Kalyan Chaubey believes in seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.  

‘’Nothing is lost yet,’’ said Chaubey, the first footballer-president of the national body. ‘’You see, two teams from each group will go through to second round. There will be a fatigue factor in the first game against China but tactically, we are capable of overcoming the other two: Bangladesh and Myanmar, and make it to the second round,’’ he told National Herald. 

The last week has been a hectic one for Chaubey, a former international goalkeeper, as he kept working the phones to obtain the release of some of the players in the original list for the Games from their respective Indian Super League (ISL) clubs. This saw the addition of key defender Sandesh Jhingan, Chinglensana Singh and Lalchungnunga to the squad, which has the talismanic Sunil Chhetri as captain. 

‘’Yes, we have worked hard to meet the demands of the team management (read head coach Igor Stimac) as that’s the federation’s job. However, the idea is also to bring the best out of the available resources at our disposal and not worry about who we are missing. If we can make it to the second round in China, you can never tell, otherwise, we would not have seen such upset results in the World Cup,’’ said Chaubey. 

Does he regret pushing the case of the men’s football team with the Union sports ministry after it was not cleared for failing to meet the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) criterion of a top eight spot among Asian countries?

‘’Far from it, we were able to convince the ministry that with Indian football in a good space now, we should send the team after two Asian Games rather than wait. If we look at our King’s Cup campaign, India went ahead twice against Iraq before going down in a tie-breaker. Now if you consider that Iraq is ranked 70 while we are at 99, it’s an impressive performance,’’ said Chaubey, who is also interim CEO of the IOA. 

A closer look at the sequence of events leading to the chaos about the team selection tells a tale. ‘’While we sent a provisional list of 50 players by 15 July, which was the deadline for a long list set by the Hangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee (HAGOC), the ministry’s clearance for the football teams actually came on 26 July.  

‘’The squad that has been finally picked was part of the 50 names we had submitted earlier and they all belong to the pool of players set up by AIFF. There is, to my mind, very little to choose from in the bigger pool of Indian players who ply their trade in ISL and they are quite capable of doing well,’’ the AIFF supremo observed. 

The only player from I-League, the tier below ISL, to have made the  cut in the 22-member squad is Kenkre FC’s Azfar Noorani.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines