The All India Football Federation (AIFF) released a 17-member squad for Asian Games 2023, to be held in Hangzhou, China from 23 September to 8 October. AIFF were forced to name a relatively inexperienced team, with Sunil Chhetri being the only experienced player in the squad, owing to the Indian Super League (ISL) clubs' stance of not letting their key players depart for China ahead of the new season.
The Under-24 tournament allows teams to include and field three senior players. However, in the case of the Indian squad, Sunil Chhetri is the only senior player who will be featuring in the squad while the other two senior players who were initially named – Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sandesh Jhingan – have not been released by their respective clubs.
Mohun Bagan Super Giant had earlier given a nod for Liston Colaco to replace the seniors, but the permission was revoked after Ashique Kuruniyan got injured in Thailand. Moreover, the likes of Asish Rai and Anwar Ali have also not been given the clearance to travel to China.
Indian Super League's new season will be starting on 21 September, while India's first match at the Asian Games will be on 19 September. “It has been a hectic time for Indian football season this time. We have a tight schedule within a short period of time that was not easy to manage. There have been too many things happening, both at the domestic and the international level, involving India’s National Teams, as well as the ISL clubs," said AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey.
As per the reports, coach Igor Stimac might miss the tournament as most of the senior players are set to miss the tournament. In this case, assistant coach Mahesh Gawli is expected to take the charge. India will begin its campaign with a group stage match against China on 19 September followed by a contest against Bangladesh on 21 September and Myanmar on 24 September.