Why did Indian women’s team drops out of the AFC Women’s championship ?

Due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Indian camp, India’s match versus Chinese Taipei in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup has been cancelled. Following a goalless draw against Iran, which centre-back Sweety Devi missed due to a COVID positive test, this was meant to be India’s second game of the tournament.

●   Heartbreak for India

India failed to name the requisite minimum of 13 players for the Group A match against Chinese Taipei, following many positive cases of COVID-19. As a result, India was unable to play in the game, as per Article 4.1 of the ‘Special Rules Applicable to AFC Competitions During the COVID-19 Pandemic’, and the entire requirements of Article 4.1 shall apply. 

To put things in perspective, the competition is being held in a bio-bubble, with no supporters permitted inside the stadiums. The media, like the public, has restricted access to the media boxes. This match was critical for India’s chances in the competition; however, they were eliminated because they could not participate. ‘Furthermore, India’s failure to play in the match also triggers Article 6 of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 regulations,’ the AFC noted.

The AFC Women’s Asian Cup in India 2022 will continue as planned. The winners of each group, the runners-up and the two best third-placed teams will advance to the quarter-finals. 

All of India’s women’s football team’s matches have been cancelled due to their withdrawal from the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, and their chances of qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand have also weakened. Along with China, Chinese Taipei, and Iran, India was placed in Group A.

The COVID crisis in the India Women’s Football squad was brought up by AIFF president Praful Patel, who tweeted that it was sad that this matter was brought up. Patel remarked in a tweet, “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, this happened to us, and it was pure bad luck that it happened to us. There should be no fingers pointing at anyone. We must recognise that this is a pandemic condition, and no bubble can be guaranteed to be impenetrable all over the world.”

“The team is heartbroken,” he continued, “and I ask that everyone respect their feelings and sentiments. I’m proud of the team’s promise in their debut match, and I’m convinced that they’ll establish their worth in the near future. We are as dissatisfied as the rest of the country is right now with this unjust scenario. The athletes’ health and well-being, on the other hand, are of paramount significance to us and must not be jeopardised under any circumstances.”

Thomas Dennerby, the Indian women’s football team coach, blamed the AFC for the COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in the country’s elimination from the ongoing Asian Cup in Mumbai, claiming that hotel employees infected his players in a “foolproof” bio-bubble.

Dennerby launched a harsh attack on the continental body, claiming that India’s ambition of competing in the FIFA World Cup was broken due to the fragile bio-bubble established by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

He claimed the AFC showed the team no “respect, sympathy, or humanity” in dealing with the “unique” situation in high-stakes competition. 

“We were all COVID-negative when we arrived at the team hotel and after the testing. The first positive case occurred on the day we left the hotel for training, and seven hotel employees tested positive the next day (January 17). Knowing how the outbreak started isn’t rocket science, “After a virtual media interaction, he said.

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