Gokulam Kerala writes to PM, dials sports ministry, gets 48-hour AFC extension at Tashkent


https://twitter.com/GokulamKeralaFC/

New Delhi: Oscillating between hope and despair since the FIFA ban on India, Gokulam Kerala women's team president V C Praveen was contemplating his next move, as his players battled utter helplessness in a faraway land.

He mulled dialling the sports ministry, writing to the prime minister, getting the Committee of Administrators (CoA) involved, buying time from the Asian Football Confederation.

He was desperate to pull out all the stops to see his players avoid the humiliation of returning from Tashkent without playing, barely hours after arriving there as a team about to become the first club to represent India in AFC Women's Club Championship.

After giving it much thought, Praveen decided, instead of him dialling New Delhi from Kerala, it's the team that should make the call, from the Uzbekistan capital to the sports ministry here.

The team manager spoke as the players stood beside as a tight-knit unit adamant on not giving up hope in a game they were not expecting to be part of. The impassioned plea worked, as the ministry promptly took up the matter with the AFC, which offered the team an extension of 48 hours in Tashkent.

So, instead of taking the next flight back home, the team from India continued to stay in a country where it has gone with lots of hope.

"It's about expressing the emotions, we calling them is fine but the team making the call from there is different. So we thought the players would have to be part of the call. The ministry acted immediately and got in touch with the AFC," Praveen told PTI on Wednesday.

While he let the players surround his team manager as he called Delhi, the club's president decided to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him about the helpless situation his players found themselves after world football governing body FIFA moved to ban India for "undue third party interference".

"The girls are suffering for no fault of theirs, it's so sad. This (ban) was so sudden, this was not expected. Why should the players suffer when they not done anything wrong," Praveen added.

With the Supreme Court deferring the next hearing to August 22, uncertainty still hovers over the team's participation. While the tournament starts on August 20 in Qarshi, the Indian club is scheduled to open its campaign on August 23.

While Gokulam Kerala FC remains in the Uzbek capital, all the other teams have left for Qarshi, where the matches are being played.

Taking to Twitter also, the team revealed that they have written to the PM, requesting for his help and intervention to revoke the FIFA ban.

"Our team reached Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from Kozhikode during the early hours of 16th of August 2022. On arrival, we heard through various media outlets that FIFA has banned AIFF (All India Football Federation) and the clubs are therefore no longer entitled to take part in the international competition until the suspension is lifted," read the club's statement.

"In the light of the above, we request PMOs good officers to intervene in this matter and make all efforts to revoke FIFA ban and include us back in the AFC Women's Club Championship as the champion club of India."

"Such an unforeseen ban should not be detrimental to our efforts in making INDIA proud to become the number one women's football nation in Asia," the club added.

FIFA had stated that the suspension on All India Football Federation (AIFF) will be lifted once the "mandate" of the CoA, currently in charge of the sport on the direction of the SC, is "repealed in full".

"Our club Gokulam FC is the current champion of India women's football. Having earned the distinction of becoming the champion club of India on May 26, 2022, we automatically qualified to play in the AFC women's championship on August 23 at Qarshi Uzbekistan," the club said further.

"Our first match is scheduled against Iran on August 23. We trained for 60 days to take part in this prestigious tournament. AFC sent a letter to AIFF stating that our club is no longer eligible to take part in the AFC Women's Club Championship.

"However, AIFF hasn't any e-mail of letter to our club anticipating that the ban will be lifted within a couple of days." PTI

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