Rahul lone Malayali in Indian football squad for Asian Games

Rahul K P
Kerala Blasters' Rahul K P during a training session. Photo: ISL

New Delhi: Talisman Sunil Chhetri, senior defender Sandesh Jhingan and first-choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu were on Tuesday named in the Indian men's football squad for the upcoming Asian Games.

Midfielder Rahul K P is the only name to feature from Kerala in the 22-member squad.

In Hangzhou, China, the host city for the Games, the Indian squad will be under the charge of national senior team head coach, Igor Stimac.

PTI had earlier reported that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) was bullish about sending its first team to the Asian Games led by Chhetri and coached by 1998 Croatian World Cup semifinalist Stimac.

It is learnt that this Indian squad has got approval from the Asian Games organisers and the Olympic Council of Asia.

The participation of the Indian men's and women's football sides in the Hangzhou Games was earlier in doubt as per the sports ministry's criteria of sending teams which are ranked in the top-8 in the continent.

The ministry later cleared both teams by relaxing the criteria after an appeal from the AIFF. Head coach Stimac had also sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention in the matter.

The Indian men's team are placed alongside hosts China PR, Bangladesh, and Myanmar in Group A.

There are 23 teams, which have been divided into six groups. Group A, B, C, E, and F have four teams each while Group D has three teams.

Twice Asian Games champions India are participating in the football event of the continental games for the first time in nine years.

The Asian Games football competition is an Under-23 affair but due to the one-year delay in hosting this edition of the event, the organisers have allowed those who are 24 years old to participate, with the cut-off date of birth being fixed at January 1, 1999.

The national football team would be returning to the Asian Games after missing the 2018 edition in Jakarta.

The Squad

Goalkeepers: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Gurmeet Singh, Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem.

Defenders: Sandesh Jhingan, Anwar Ali, Narender Gahlot, Lalchungnunga, Akash Mishra, Roshan Singh, Ashish Rai.

Midfielders: Jeakson Singh Thounaojam, Suresh Singh Wangjam, Apuia Ralte, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Rahul K P, Naorem Mahesh Singh.

Forwards: Siva Sakthi Narayanan, Rahim Ali, Sunil Chhetri, Aniket Jadhav, Vikram Partap Singh, Rohit Danu.

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