SAI refuses to pay for national soccer team’s Dubai tour

February 15th, 2012 - 8:48 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) The Indian football squad’s tour to Dubai for the AFC Challenge Cup, a qualifying tournament for 2015 Asian Cup, has run into an unexpected last-minute hurdle as the Sports Authority of India (SAI) has refused to bear the Rs.40 lakh budgeted expense for their training in Dubai.

SAI director general Desh Deepak Verma told IANS that the government is concentrating only on the Olympic preparations, while AIFF general-secretary Kushal Das insists the Dubai trip was part of the federation’s Long Term Development Plan (LTDP) cleared by the SAI.

The 30-member squad, that left for Dubai Wednesday, will be training for three weeks at the Dubai Sports City and will also play two international friendlies against Oman in Muscat Feb 23, and against Azerbaijan in Dubai Feb 27 to prepare for the 2015 AFC Challenge Cup. India had won the 2008 edition to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup after a gap of 24 years.

“We cannot allocate any money now since we are directing all resources for the Olympic preparation. The steering committee had decided that funds will be used only for Olympic preparation,” Verma told IANS.

When pointed out that the senior team’s preparation has nothing to do with Olympics, where football is Under-23, Verma said: “Then we may consider bearing a part of the team’s expenses.”

Das, however, said that the tour was planned after discussions with SAI.

“We had planned the tour after discussing with SAI and it had agreed in principle to pick up the tabs,” Das told IANS.

“In fact, we had informed SAI well in advance about the tour. Initially, SAI officials wanted the AIFF to undertake the tour after the London Olympics in July, but that would have been of no use since the AFC Challenge Cup is in March,” said Das.

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