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Asian Games: Chhetri to lead India’s football team | Football News

Sunil Chhetri is the only over-24 player in the list of 17, five short of what teams are allowed, released by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Wednesday for the men’s squad in the Asian Games. An AIFF official said the list could go up to 19 but will not be 22.

Indian captain Sunil Chhetri reacts after winning the match against Pakistan (PTI)
Indian captain Sunil Chhetri reacts after winning the match against Pakistan (PTI)

There is no mention of the head coach in the report on AIFF’s website but late on Wednesday, the AIFF official said India head coach Igor Stimac is likely to travel. Stimac is supposed to meet AIFF secretary-general Shaji Prabhakaran on Thursday. The Games squad has only nine from the list of 22 chosen by Stimac and published by AIFF on August 1.

It has only two goalkeepers instead of the usual three teams have. One of them, FC Goa’s Dheeraj Singh though was listed as having pulled out by AIFF. In the list of replacements AIFF got cleared by the sports ministry, Singh’s place is taken by Liston Colaco. Yet Colaco has not been named. Also listed as replacement for Mumbai City FC’s Lalengmawia Ralte is Jamshedpur FC goalkeeper Vishal Yadav. Neither Yadav nor Ralte have been named.

The list sent to the ministry also has Ayush Chhetri as Rohit Danu’s replacement. Both have been named by AIFF. Also getting in as replacements are Punjab FC’s Samuel Lyngdoh for Bengaluru FC’s Sivasakthi Narayanan, Hyderabad FC’s Abdul Rabeeh Anjukandan for Bengaluru FC’s Roshan Noarem, Chenaniyin FC’s Vincy Barreto for Mohun Bagan Super Giant’s Ashish Rai. HT has a copy of the list.

There are no players from East Bengal in the squad. Mohun Bagan Super Giant and Mumbai City have one player each. Azfar Noorani is the only player from I-League. The wide midfielder plays for Gokulam Kerala. All other clubs have two players each from their roster.

Bengaluru FC, from where Stimac had chosen six players, have only Rohit Danu and Chhetri for Asian Games. As per Stimac’s list, Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sandesh Jhingan were the three over-24 players. FC Goa have refused to release Jhingan and Bengaluru FC Sandhu as their other goalkeepers are either injured or on loan.

Competing in the AFC Cup and the Indian Super League (ISL), which starts on September 21, Mohun Bagan Super Giant have only Sumit Rathi. Chosen emerging player of ISL in 2019-20, Rathi is a third-choice central defender. A Mohun Bagan official said after the ISL media day that with Ashique Kuruniyan being injured during the King’s Cup game between India and Iraq, it would not be possible for the club to release Colaco. This was three hours before AIFF released the squad.

“It has been a hectic time for Indian football season this time. We have a tight schedule within a short period of time that was not easy to manage,” said AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey on the federation’s website.

India have been grouped with China, Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Asian Games. India start against China on September 19, play Bangladesh two days later and Myanmar on September 24. Two teams from each of the six groups and four best third teams will qualify for the round of 16. India have not been out of the group stage since 2010 and did not participate in the 2018 edition of the Games.

Football in the Asian Games is not part of the FIFA internal window and hence clubs don’t have to release players. With ISL not being deferred, clubs were reluctant to release players.

The squad: Gurmeet Singh (Hyderabad FC), Dheeraj Singh (FC Goa); Sumit Rathi (Mohun Bagan Super Giant), Nardender Gahlot (Odisha FC), Amarjit Singh Kiyam (Punjab FC), Samuel James (Punjab), Rahul KP (Kerala Blasters), Abdul Rabeeh Anjukandan (Hyderabad FC), Ayush Chhetri (FC Goa), Bryce Miranda (Kerala Blasters), Azfar Noorani (Gokulam Kerala), Rahim Ali (Chennaiyin FC), Vincy Barreto (Chennaiyin FC), Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC), Rohit Danu (Bengaluru FC), Gurkirat Singh (Mumbai City), Aniket Jadhav (Odisha FC.)

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