The Gokulam Kerala FC women's football team, which landed in Uzbekistan earlier this week for the AFC Women's Club Championships 2022, will return to India on Monday as it stands ineligible to compete in the continental meet following the FIFA ban on the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
The 23-member Gokulam team, led by Indian women’s team captain Ashalata Devi, was scheduled to play its opening game against home side Sogdiana-W in Qarshi on August 23, followed by a clash against Bam Khatoon FC of Iran on August 26.
The Gokulam contingent had landed in Tashkent on August 16 - the day the FIFA slapped a ban on the AIFF for third-party interference..
With Gokulam Kerala FC stranded in Uzbekistan without much clarity over their participation, the Indian sports ministry had written to FIFA and AFC to let the Kerala side compete but it proved fruitless.
"The sports ministry has told us that its request to FIFA and AFC to allow us to play in the AFC Women's Club Championships has been refused. So, we are not playing. The organisers have also told us that we can't play," Gokulam Kerala president VC Praveen told PTI.
VC Praveen also revealed that the players were distraught by the turn of events and felt that the AFC should have allowed the club to participate.
"We did not know about the ban before we left Kozhikode. We came to know of the ban on AIFF only after reaching Uzbekistan," VC Praveen added.
The AFC has removed Gokulam's scheduled matches from its website. The club will request the AFC to reimburse the travel and accommodation expenditure.
Earlier this week, FIFA suspended the AIFF for undue influence from third parties. The U-17 Women's World Cup, scheduled to be held in October in India, is also doubtful.
The AIFF elections for a new executive committee is scheduled to be held on August 28. This is subject to a Supreme Court order expected on Monday (August 22).