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Sandesh Jhingan, 2 others added to Chhetri-led Indian team for Asian Games | Football News

Senior defender Sandesh Jhingan along with Chinglensana Singh and Lalchungnunga have been added to India’s squad for the Asian Games, the All India Football Federation announced on Friday.

Senior defender Sandesh Jhingan will be joining the Indian squad for the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou(Getty Images)
Senior defender Sandesh Jhingan will be joining the Indian squad for the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou(Getty Images)

India are scheduled to face China in their first game of the Asian Games in Hangzhou on September 19, but with the 10th edition of the Indian Super league set to begin two days later, there was uncertainty regarding players’ availability for the continental event. As the Asian Games are not being held in the FIFA window, ISL clubs were at loggerheads with the Indian football federation and not keen on releasing their players.

The AIFF also announced that it will conduct a medical test of Naorem Mahesh Singh before taking a decision to include him in the squad. According to officials, though, East Bengal – the club Naorem represents – doesn’t have any update on the winger’s injury. As far as the club is concerned, he was supposed to travel from his home in Manipur to Kolkata on September 18 and be evaluated the following day.

Although the tournament is not falling under the FIFA window, it has been learnt that the AIFF has assured ISL clubs that they will take care of the medical expenses of the players if they happen to get injured during the Asian Games.

“We are happy that some more experienced footballers are there in the squad to strengthen our campaign,” said AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey.

The release by the AIFF also confirmed that Igor Stimac will be the head coach of the Indian team at the Asian Games. The 56-year-old Croatian had selected a squad of 22 players for the tournament on August 1, however, only nine of those players were named in the 18-member squad announced on Wednesday while the rest were not released by their respective ISL clubs.

“It’s a wonderful development that some experienced players have been added to the Asian Games squad, who will certainly help the cause of the team,” said Stimac. “I’m thankful to FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited) and AIFF for making it happen. Whoever represents India, together we will be honoured to defend the flag.”

Jhingan plays for FC Goa in the ISL and earlier in the week, during a Media Day event in Bengaluru, head coach Manolo Marquez had touched upon the issue briefly and said that he will try his best with whichever players he has at his disposal at any given point in the season.

Meanwhile, the ISL announced on Friday that the match between FC Goa and Hyderabad FC, scheduled to take place on September 22, has been rescheduled and a new date would be decided upon soon.

Chaubey said he’s “extremely thankful to FSDL for standing up to the need of the hour and help the cause of the national team by agreeing to reschedule some matches of the ISL.” He also thanked all stakeholders of the AIFF for the cooperation in solving the impasse that was created over the release of players and overlapping of dates.

Despite this last-minute development, though, India could be held back by the fact that the squad hasn’t trained together. Sunil Chhetri, who will be leading India, had said on Thursday that it will be difficult for the players to gel together on the pitch because of a lack of familiarity.

“We should have been in a camp or training in China,” said Chhetri. “And if that is not possible, India should field a team where players know each other, have trained and played together.” According to officials close to the development, Chhetri had requested players to make themselves available for the Asian Games.

He added that “this would be the most under-prepared national team he would be part of.”

At the Asian Games, football will be played as an age-specific competition with only three players in each team allowed to be above the age of 23 years. India are grouped with China, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The top two teams from the six groups and four of the best third teams will qualify for the round of 16.

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