Sports minister advised not to clear five disciplines for Asiad

New Delhi: Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was Tuesday advised by his officials not to clear teams in five disciplines, including football -- where the men's team has won two gold medals, for the 2014 Asian Games slated for Sep 19-Oct 4 in the South Korean city of Incheon.

Besides football, basketball, handball, table tennis and sepak takraw will also be axed if Sonowal strictly goes by his ministry officials' recommendations before taking the final call Wednesday.

A top official of the sport ministry told IANS on the condition of anonymity that recommendations for all the 28 events have been made on the basis of the criteria laid down by the government.

"We have made our recommendations to the minister on the basis of the criteria that we have set earlier. In team sports, it is eighth-rank or above in Asia and in individual events at least sixth-place finish in the last Asian Games. All our recommendations are on the basis of performance and ranking," the official told IANS.

The official, however, said that it will be purely Sonowal's discretion whether to send the teams or not.

"It will be purely the minister's call. He may clear some teams. But from the ministry's side, we feel there are no chances of India winning medals in five disciplines. Our football team performed quite badly against Pakistan recently," the official added.

Asked if the respective federations can send teams at "no cost to the government", the official said: "We are not even looking that far. Let the minister take the call and then we will decide. But we don't want India to cut a sorry figure at the Asian Games."

It was important for the ministry to drop some disciplines after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) sent a list of 935 athletes and officials for the Asian Games. At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, the Indian contingent had 625 athletes and the ministry wants to keep the Incheon contingent around 700.

The Sports Authority of India is not impressed with the way the men's football team is performing. The under-23 team recently lost to arch-rivals Pakistan 0-2, which was their first defeat against the neighbours for the first time at home in 55 years. The men's team is ranked 26th while the women are ranked 11th in Asia.

The men's team, which won the gold medal twice in 1951 and 1962, are currently ranked 150th in the world. They have been clubbed with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan in Group G and they have slim chances of qualifying to the round of 16.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) may have to shell out a whopping Rs.1.15 crore to send the U-23 men's and women's team to the Asian Games if Sonowal allows them to participate on no cost to the government-basis.

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