The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has urged the 10 Indian Super League franchises to release players selected for the upcoming Asian Games, keeping the “national interest in mind”.
The Hangzhou-bound 22-member Indian men’s squad has six players from Bengaluru FC, three from Mumbai City FC, while FC Goa, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Odisha FC, and Kerala Blasters have two each.
Punjab FC, Chennaiyin FC and Hyderabad have one each.
The Indian Super League (ISL) starts on September 21, while the Asian Games begin a day after on September 23 in Hangzhou, China.
“We very much understand that this Asian Games is outside the FIFA window, and you are not obliged to release the players,” AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran wrote in a letter to the 10 ISL clubs.
“But we all have the responsibility towards the country to make India proud… As Indians we are obliged to make sacrifices for the country and, in this process, you have to take a decision by releasing the players considering the National interest in mind.” Making a special exemption, the Sports Ministry allowed both the men’s and women’s teams to participate in the Asian Games, marking their return to the continental showpiece after nine years.
“We are hopeful that you will release these players in time for the full strength of the team to be in the Asian Games and stand with the country during the Asian Games,” Prabhakaran stated.
“We sincerely hope that you will stand with the country and make available these players which would be hailed by all the citizens of India.
“Your decision will take our beautiful game to the next level. We look forward for your cooperation and support in taking Indian football forward, and your one step to release the players to be part of the Asian Games will once again demonstrate our collaboration in shaping the future of football in India,” he added.
The Indian men’s team, ranked 99 in the FIFA rankings, is the second-best ranked team in Group A behind hosts China (No. 80). Myanmar (160) and Bangladesh (189) are the other two teams.
A total of 23 teams have been divided into six groups — five with four each and one (group D) with three.
The top two teams of each group and the four best third-placed teams across all groups will make the pre-quarterfinals.
The Igor Stimac-coached side will begin its campaign against hosts China on September 19, followed by matches against Bangladesh (September 21) and Myanmar (September 24).
The Indian men’s football team had won gold medals at the New Delhi 1951 and Jakarta 1962 Asian Games, while clinching a bronze at Bangkok 1970.
The 2023 Hangzhou Games will be the 16th Asian Games appearance for the Indian men’s team.
Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Bengaluru), Gurmeet Singh (Hyderabad), Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem (FC Goa).
Defenders: Anwar Ali, Ashish Rai (Mohun Bagan), Sandesh Jhingan (FC Goa), Narender Gahlot (Odisha FC), Lalchungnunga (East Bengal), Akash Mishra (Mumbai City), Roshan Singh (Bengaluru FC).
Midfielders: Rahul KP, Jeakson Singh (both Kerala Blasters), Suresh Singh Wangjam (Bengaluru), Apuia Ralte (Mumbai City), Amarjit Singh Kiyam (Punjab), Naorem Mahesh Singh (East Bengal).
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Rohit Danu, Siva Sakthi Narayanan (all Bengaluru), Rahim Ali (Chennaiyin), Aniket Jadhav (Odisha), Vikram Partap Singh (Mumbai).
Head Coach: Igor Stimac.