Mon, 23 May 2022

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], January 26 (ANI): India women's football team coach Thomas Dennerby on Wednesday said that his side is not happy with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and in one way or another, the dreams of his side were destroyed.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Monday had confirmed that COVID-hit India withdrew from the AFC Women's Asian Cup and their remaining Group A matches stand cancelled. India was unable to register a minimum of 13 players (including one goalkeeper) in the player selection list and start list for the match between Chinese Taipei and India on Sunday.

"I am extremely proud of my players and staff. AIFF has done a wonderful job, nothing more could be done and no one from the federation could have changed the situation. Honestly, we are not happy with the AFC tournament organization and the lack of solution-oriented dialogue. We think in one way, our dream was destroyed but we are not blaming the whole AFC organization," said Dennerby during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.

"We have strictly followed the AFC protocols. The girls stayed in their rooms all the time. All team meetings happened in the room. On the 16th we were tested for COVID-19 again, at that time first case in our camp was detected, which means, the first case of COVID happened when we came out of quarantine, how was it possible? Very strange, first feeling, it might have come from someone in the bubble," he added.

Further explaining the situation, the coach said: "On the 18th we were tested again, three more positive results detected in our camp. The positive cases were close to the hotel staff, co-incidence or not? What we did not know was that the hotel staff was tested on the 17th, the result was sent to AFC on the 18th and after that, the AFC did not send the report to the hotel until the 19th around 1:30 PM. When the results came, seven hotel staff members were infected with COVID.""The staff was cleaning our rooms when we were inside, why did not AFC send the reports immediately? Why wait the whole day? Did they understand this was not good, no action was taken. AFC should have called the hotel directly and should have immediately asked them to leave the hotel. That was a really big mistake, that was an unprofessional way to handle the AFC bubble, no explanations can be good enough," he added.

Replying to an ANI query on whether there is something AFC could do differently heading into the future, the coach said: "Hopefully, we all learn something out of this situation including AFC. Honestly, I do not want to blame anyone, in particular, I just wanted the put out the full story to stop all the rumours doing the rounds. I just wanted everyone to know that we followed all the protocols."Further replying to ANI on whether AFC was too rigid in not having proper dialogue, Dennerby said: "It is not me personally who tried to have the communication with AFC, but I read all the mails that arrived at our federation. If you read all these emails, you can say they did not even open the door to do something about this. As I said, it was painful to see the lack of solution-oriented dialogue."AFC in an official statement said: "Accordingly, Article 4.1 of the Special Rules Applicable to AFC Competitions during Covid-19 Pandemic ("Special Rules") applied." "In view of the above, India was unable to participate in the match, is to be held responsible for the match not taking place, and is considered as to have withdrawn from the competition," the statement added.

"What hurts me is that AFC is now trying to blame us, this is a shame. When we are trying to have a dialogue with them, they are saying read Article 4.1 of Special Rules, they say no hotel staff is infected, how do we know it is true or not? From my side, the biggest problem is that AFC was not interested in having a conversation to handle this situation," said Dennerby.

"On the 20th, we played a game against Iran that ended as a goalless draw. After the game, not all players felt good, on the 21st morning we had sessions with substitutes, in the evening we had pre-game testing. On the 22nd, seven more of our players tested positive for COVID. We had another testing on 22nd, two more ended up testing positive and now a total of 10 of our players were infected," he added.

Further explaining the situation, Dennerby said: "We immediately informed the AFC about the situation ahead of the game against Chinese Taipei, we were well aware of Article 4.1 of Special Rules. AFC kept on saying that you need 13 players for the match. It was a very sad moment, so in total, we ended up with 12 players with COVID and 2 players injured, we had just nine players left.""Why was the match against Chinese Taipei was not cancelled earlier, what was AFC waiting for? No respect, no compassion for us. Did AFC want us to look like fools? At this moment when I am sitting here, we have 19 players and six members of the staff infected with COVID. Really heartbroken team, almost six months of dreams and passion, destroyed. This is my worst experience as a head coach ever and this came in my eighth championship. Me and team are devasted," he added. (ANI)

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