Mumbai: India's football team could be at risk of losing government funding before they head to next month's Asian Games following a recent demoralising defeat to arch-rivals Pakistan.
The Indian Olympic Association has sent a list of more than 900 people, including athletes and officials, to the sports ministry for approval for travelling to the September 19 to October 4 Games in the South Korean city of Incheon.
"The talks are at a very preliminary stage. We can't take an arbitrary decision and there will be meetings," Jiji Thomson, the director general of the Sports Authority of India, told Reuters on Tuesday when asked if a funding cut for the national soccer team was possible. "We will decide next week.
"But there will definitely be some pruning from the list of 900-odd people that we have received."
The Indian team, primarily featuring under-23 players that will make up the squad in Incheon, won the first warm-up match against their bitter neigbours 1-0 but went down 2-0 in the next last week.
"I am a football fan and I was present at the match. I can only say that the performance was very disappointing," Thomson added.
India, twice Asian Games champions in 1951 and 1962, are ranked 150th in the world and will find it tough to advance in Incheon, where they are in Group G with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
Two teams will go through from the group stages to the round of 16.
The men's under-23 national team is currently in China and will play two practice matches against Chinese Super League sides as part of their preparation for the Incheon Games.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) might have to pay out of their own pockets for the trip if the government decides against providing the funding.
"We are not aware of any such development and have not been informed anything officially about the funding cut for the Asian Games," Kushal Das, the AIFF general secretary, told Reuters.
"The team is currently training in China and will reach Incheon from there. There is no question of the Indian team not playing in the Asian Games."