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It's official, footballers will have a ball

The sports Ministry clears the Indian football team for the Doha Asian Games on a no cost to government basis, reports Ajai Masand

india Updated: Nov 23, 2006 12:30 IST

The sports Ministry had cleared the Indian football team for the Doha Asian Games on a “no cost to government basis” on November 13, although the decision was made public only on Wednesday.

Football did not figure in the list of 25 disciplines cleared on a “full cost to government basis” by the Ministry on November 17, and this had given rise to speculation about the team's participation.

“We had conducted random dope tests on the team in Mumbai — in the second week of November before the team departed for the Asian Cup qualifiers against Yemen on November 15,” said PC Kashyap, the Sports Authority of India Executive Director (Teams), on Wednesday.

Despite football's popularity in the country, the Ministry did not clear the team on a “full cost to government basis” as it did not fulfill the government's criteria of a fourth-to-sixth place finish in the previous Games.

Had the Ministry given football the go ahead on a “full cost to government basis”, it would have had to clear a whole lot of other disciplines.

The All India Football Federation had sent the team to Bangkok (1998) and Busan (2002) also at no cost to the government.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA), meanwhile, handed the AIFF officials their accreditation cards on Wednesday evening.

The team is currently in Dubai playing a couple of practice matches before flying to Doha. India, who are in the same group as Maldives and Iran, open their campaign against Hong Kong on November 29.

Meanwhile the Indians, on Wednesday, defeated the Dubaibased Irani Club 4-0, with Manjit Singh, Bungo Singh, NS Manju and Climax Lawrence scoring the goals.

First Published: Nov 23, 2006 12:30 IST