Gokulam Kerala women miss their AFC debut opportunity, leave Uzbekistan for home

The current Indian Women's League champions were denied permission to play after FIFA's suspension of AIFF. 'So much to cry about,' says club CEO to South First.

BySreerag PS

Published Aug 20, 2022 | 8:18 PM Updated Aug 20, 2022 | 8:29 PM

Gokulam Kerala FC in Uzbekistan

Days after the football governing body FIFA suspended AIFF (All India Football Federation), the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs asked the women’s team of Gokulam Kerala FC to return to India as the Malabarians will not be allowed to participate in the competition.

Gokulam Kerala FC, champions of the Indian Women’s League, was in Uzbekistan for its debut in the AFC Women’s Club Championship. It was in the midst of their training for the opening match of the competition that FIFA’s suspension of AIFF was officially declared, shattering the dreams of the club, the players, and their fans.

The Kozhikode-based club was hoping for a last-minute intervention from the part of the Indian government and FIFA for a decision to let the girls play in the tournament. However, the attempts did not materialise and on Saturday, the sports ministry asked the club management to return from Uzbekistan.

Gokulam FC letter to the country’s prime minister

On August 17, Gokulam Kerala FC’s Twitter handle tweeted a letter that the club wrote to the prime minister of India. 

The letter read: “Our club Sree Gokulam Kerala FC is the current champion club of India in women’s football. Having achieved the distinction of becoming the champion club of India, on 26 May 2022, we automatically qualified to play in the AFC women’s club championship on 23 August 2022, at Qarshi Uzbekistan.”

The letter goes on to state that the team has been training for 60 days for the event and sought the prime minister’s urgent intervention into the matter.

‘So much to cry about’: Gokul Kerala FC CEO, who is in Uzbekistan

South First spoke to the CEO of Gokulam Kerala FC, Ashok Kumar who is now with the team camp in Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan.

 “See the whole world knows about the details, I don’t want to get into all of it. But one thing I can say is that there is so much to cry about. At the moment the team management is putting a smile on our face, that’s how I and my colleagues are facing the players here,” Kumar said.

 He said he and his team expected a miracle to happen, but their hopes didn’t bear fruit. However, he said the team will prepare for the next Asian Cup Championship. From this year onwards, we will be moving forwards towards that, he said.

 When asked about the involvement of the sports ministry in bringing a solution to the situation, Kumar said the ministry did everything within its capacity to communicate with FIFA and AFC. “But the rules and regulations do not allow us to participate in the competition because of the ban. We were in constant touch and they were updating us on every detail,” he said.

Kumar also said that the team is ready for the return to Kerala, but there is a delay due to the unavailability of tickets.