A ‘distraught’ Gokulam Kerala women's team will return home on Monday from Uzbekistan after it was removed from the AFC Women's Club Championship following the FIFA ban on India. (More Football News)
The 23-member team, led by India captain Ashalata Devi, were left stranded in Tashkent for four days since arriving at the Uzbekistan capital on August 16, the day the news of the ban imposed on the AIFF by the world governing body FIFA reached India.
Gokulam, the Indian Women's League champions, were to play against home side Sogdiana-W in Qarshi on August 23 and against Bam Khatoon FC of Iran in its next round-robin match on August 26.
“Yes, it is confirmed. The sports ministry has told us that its request to FIFA and AFC to allows us play in the AFC Women's Club Championships has been refused. So, we are not playing. The organisers have also told us that we can't play,” Gokulam Kerala president V C Praveen told PTI.
“We were trying for the players to return home on Sunday but there is no flight from Tashkent to India. The earliest flight is on Monday, so we are trying for the players to return home on Monday or Tuesday,” he added.
“Of course, the players are distraught at the turn of events and they had to suffer for no fault of theirs. The club had to suffer.” Praveen said the AFC should have allowed his club to take part in the championships as the players had left for the tournament before the ban came into effect.
“We did not know about the ban before we left Kozhikode, we came to know of the ban on AIFF only after reaching Uzbekistan. The FIFA and AFC should have been considerate, either the ban should have been after this championship or we should have been allowed to take part in it.”
He said the club will request the AFC to compensate for the money spent on players’ travel and accommodation, which will run into lakhs of rupees. “The AFC normally reimburses for the flight tickets, for travel and accommodation expensive for its tournaments.
“So, we will make a request to AFC and let's see what happens.” The club had made a request to the sports ministry and had also written to the Prime Minister for help. The AFC has also removed Gokulam Kerala's scheduled matches which were earlier there on its website.