The house, to a certain extent, has been set in order and things finally seem to be falling in place.
After days of confusion over Iran’s participation in the ONGC Nehru Cup, the tournament format and schedule, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) said on Thursday that the event being revived after a decade will be a five-team round-robin affair and Iran would not be coming.
Not really keen on having a club side competing, the AIFF rejected the continental powerhouse’s proposal to send a club side instead of the main team in the premier tournament that carries a prize-money of $100,000.
“We wanted the Iranian national team for the tournament but they were intent on sending one of their club sides. We were not prepared for that as only performance against national 'A' sides counts towards Fifa rankings,” said AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco.
“As a last-ditch effort, we tried to get their Under-23 side but that did not work out either,” he added.
“We had earlier given them time to do a rethink but since they were not keen on sending their main team, the tournament will go ahead with five teams,” Colaco added.
With the Asian heavyweight not in the picture, it is set to be an evenly matched tournament with teams ranked between 113 and 172. Besides hosts India, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia and Bangladesh will be the other teams in the tournament. India will start their campaign against Cambodia on August 17.
Asked about the delay in drawing of fixtures, Colaco said, “The fixtures were drawn long back but we didn’t make it public keeping in mind the interests of the team. “Iran’s participation has got nothing to do with the delay in fixtures,” he said when asked if the Asian giant’s unwillingness to send their main team led to the delay.
Meanwhile, Colaco has said that the AIFF has yet to receive any response from Lebanon regarding the change of dates for their World Cup qualifiers. He said the AIFF has time till August 31 to convince Lebanon to change the dates for the qualifiers that are clashing with India’s first ever professional football league.
“The secretary of the Lebanese federation is out of the country and we will get a response only when he comes back,” Colaco said.