The Asian Games Football event ended in disappointment for the Indian contingent at the Asian Games 2014 as the men and women lost by big margins. Neither the men nor the women could progress through the preliminary round.
The Indian women began with great style by beating the Maldives 15-0 in emphatic fashion. However their second and third games saw India on the receiving end of 10-0 losses at the hands of South Korea and Thailand respectively. On the other hand, the men failed to secure even a single win in the two matches they played.
Here is a recap of Indian football team’s performance in the Incheon Asian games football event and the factors that affected it.
Men go on a losing streak
A surprise 0-2 defeat against bitter arch-rivals Pakistan in a friendly before the Asian Games subjected the U-23 Men’s squad to tremendous scrutiny. Indian football enthusiasts were expecting our team to recover and silence the critics but the team could not deliver against their strong opponents.
The men took to the field having arrived in Incheon only a few days ago. The Indian team received a 5-0 drubbing in their opener against the UAE, a team that recorded its highest ever FIFA rank of 61 earlier this year.
Jordan were an even more formidable force ranked at 56 before the tournament. The Indian men can surely take heart in the fact that they put up a match against Jordan irrespective of the eventual 2-0 defeat. The defense was brave and brilliant against Jordan. The loss to Jordan saw the Indian Men crashing out finishing last in their group with a goal difference of -7.
Recognizing the hardships his boys went through and the effort they put in, the coach Wim Koevermans said
You went flat on your face when got beaten 5-0 in the first game (against UAE), but that’s development. In the next game, you get back on your feet and face a better team with a better performance (loss against Jordan), although we lost it but it’s not a shame.
Women start strong but falter in the later stage
The women showed a lot of promise in their first match of the campaign by defeating Maldives by a landslide margin of 15-0. Almost everyone on the team got their names on the score card. Winger Sasmita Malik (5′, 21′, 26′, 80′, 88′) and Midfielder Kamala Devi (18′, 23′, 31′, 45+2′, 65′) netted 5 goals each while Bala Devi Ngangom (20′, 45+1′) scored 2. Ashalata Devi (53′), skipper Bembem Devi (55′) and Parmeshwori Devi (90+4′) added one goal each.
Subsequent matches proved to be tougher. The women first lost to a strong South Korean side by a margin of 10-0 and were then eliminated in their final game after going down 10-0 against Thailand.
Delayed Decision making hurts Indian Football teams
The Indian football teams were left stranded in China as the AIFF, SAI and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports got into a vary late discussion on the merits of participation in the football events.
The reasoning conveyed by the Sports Authority Of India (SAI) was to bar certain sports including Football from attending the Asian games as there was little chance of a medal or even finishing in the top 8. Also in a radical shift the government did not want to go forward with a bloated contingent that could have potentially traveled on a ‘no cost to the government’ basis. The reasoning was that a bad performance would impact the reputation of the country.
While the merits of such a decision can and should be debated, a delayed decision meant that a lot of sports persons were left hanging in limbo like our football teams that had gone to China for acclimatization and practise prior to the Asian Games event.
Sadly, the Indian football contingent could not repeat the performance of the last Asiad where the Men’s team qualified from the Group stages. Sometimes the best response of a sports person or a team is on the field of action.
Hopefully the incident will be an eye opener and the Indian players and the Sports authorities will work together to bring an improvement to India’s footballing standards.
Women Referees create history
It was not all gloom and doom for Indian football. Maria Rebello and Uvena Fernandes proved that for India as referees in the Asian Games Football event. After the Men’s and Women’s teams crashed out in the preliminary rounds, Maria and Uvena made history by refereeing in the Women’s semifinal match played between World Champions Japan and Vietnam. It was the first time that an Indian woman has officiated a match played by a World Champion team
Overall it proved to be an all Korean affair in the finals of the Incheon. South Korea beat North Korea in the Men’s final and Iraq took the third place. North Korea won the Women’s final by beating Japan while South Korea settled for a Bronze.