Deadline Over, Women Footballers Wait For 'Fair Play' As Government Swings Into Action
The AFC Women's Club Championship starts on Saturday. The schedule says that India's matches have been cancelled, but the club from India, Gokulam Kerala FC is still hoping for a turnaround as the centre has now got involved and is negotiating with FIFA to let the girls play.
"This tournament is a dream for us, we have prepared for almost a year," says Michelle from Tashkent.
Mansa echoes her sentiment and adds, "This is not just for us but for the future generation as well. We want to gift them something special."
As the cloud of uncertainty hangs over 23 girls on their team, they are even more determined for a good show if given a chance.
In their group are Jordan and Iran. With the FIFA ban on India, Sree Gokulam FC's matches have been cancelled in the schedule.
Their CEO, Dr B Ashok Kumar told NDTV, "No deadline was communicated to us. Why should they give is a deadline of 48 hours when our first match against Iran is on 23rd? Ever since we landed here, they have been asking us when are you returning, but we are not here to return. We won't return without the title"
On Friday, the Sports Ministry swung into action. They spoke to FIFA on behalf of the club. In a release they said, "It has requested FIFA and AFC to consider allowing the team to play in the AFC Women's Club Championship (West region) in the interest of the young players".
For now this leg of the tournament has been rescheduled with only Iran and Jordan.
Dr Kumar says, "We have not been communicated about matches being rescheduled. On 16th we were told that we are out of the tournament, can't play till the ban is lifted. From 16th till 22nd, there is almost a week. In case the ban is lifted, we can play. Hence we decided to stay."
The tournament is being staged in Qarshi and the Indian team was expected to have got tickets to travel there. But they were not given tickets at the outset and the club authorities are upset with the behaviour of the organisers.
"As per the regulations they should give us the ticket till Qarshi. From beginning there was negativity from AFC and organisers. We were assured that we will be given ticket to Qarshi but not given. It is budgeted by AFC, what then is the problem?"
The tournament begins Saturday, the 20th. India's only hope of a turnaround hinges on the ministry's good relations with FIFA.