Gokulam Kerala, which has been disqualified from the AFC Women’s Club championship in Uzbekistan, could remain in that country for another 48 hours.
The club has sought the intervention of the Prime Minister. The Sports Ministry too has written to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and world governing body FIFA, requesting Gokulam be allowed to compete in the tournament, which kicks off at Qarshi on August 20.
The team had already reached the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent on its way to Qarshi, when it was intimated that AFC had sent a letter to the All India Football Federation stating that Gokulam was ineligible to take part. FIFA has banned the AIFF ‘for undue influence from third parties.’
Gokulam’s disqualification is the first major after-effect of FIFA’s ban. In the letter to the Prime Minister, Gokulam CEO Ashok Kumar said that the team was stranded in Tashkent.
“Our first match against Iran is scheduled on 23rd August 2022,” the letter said. “To take part in the prestigious AFC Women’s Club Championship, we trained for 60 days since June 18 and reached Tashkent on August 16…. Our club’s women’s football team consisting of 23 players with an average age of 21 got grounded at Tashkent with disappointment coupled with distress as our preparation, both mentally and physically, went awry.
“It may please be seen that our women players and the club has been declared ineligible to participate in the AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 for no fault of ours.”
Gokulam’s president V.C. Praveen sounded hopeful when The Hindu contacted him. “The AFC has allowed the team to stay in Uzbekistan for another 48 hours,” he said over the phone. “We are still hopeful of solving the issue.”