World Cup dreams over for “absolutely devastated” Indian women football players

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From
captain
Ashalata
Devi
to
the
youngest
in
the
squad,
Hemam
Shilky
Devi,
the
Asian
Cup
was
a
once
in
a
lifetime
opportunity
and
all
of
them
were
looking
forward
to
qualify
for
the
quarterfinals,
which
would
have
also
taken
them
to
the
2023
World
Cup,
before
they
were
left
“heartbroken”.

If
not
a
World
Cup
berth,
they
would
have
made
it
to
the
intercontinental
play-offs
which
would
have
been
historic
in
Indian
football.
But
it
is
now
in
the
realm
of
‘ifs’ and
‘buts’
after
12
players
tested
positive
for
the
virus
and
the
match
against
Chinese
Taipei
was
called
off.

The
Asian
Football
Confederation
on
Monday
confirmed
that
India
are
deemed
to
have
withdrawn
from
the
continental
showpiece.

“Absolutely
devastated,”
said
senior
player
and
goalkeeper
Aditi
Chauhan
aptly
capturing
the
sentiment
within
the
squad
right
now.
“In
the
last
one
year,
our
lives
have
revolved
around
the
Asian
Cup.
Our
sole
aim
was
to
qualify
for
quarterfinals
and
take
a
shot
at
the
World
Cup,”
said
another
player.

“We
are
extremely
sad
and
disappointed
at
the
moment.
But
it
is
not
the
end
of
the
world
and
the
hope
that
we
will
get
chances
to
achieve
this
in
future
if
we
keep
on
doing
well
is
giving
us
solace.”

Many
of
the
players
have
fought
tremendous
odds
to
reach
at
this
level.
Some
took
up
to
the
sport
as
it
was
“cheaper”
to
pursue
while
others
had
to
go
against
the
will
of
their
parents
and
community.

Skipper
Ashalata
faced
opposition
from
her
family.
Ditto
was
the
case
of
Shilky,
who
is
all
of
16
and
had
the
distinction
of
being
the
tournament’s
youngest
player.
The
journey
wasn’t
easy
for
any
of
them
and
this
setback
is
definitely
going
to
cause
turmoil
in
their
minds.

No
player
is
allowed
to
speak
to
the
media
without
permission
and
it
is
learnt
that
each
of
them
has
been
told
to
stay
in
their
hotel
rooms
without
mingling
even
with
each
other.
It
is
also
learnt
that
the
players
have
not
been
told
who
are
the
ones
infected
among
them.

India
failed
to
beat
Iran
in
their
first
match
but
a
win
against
Chinese
Taipei
on
Sunday
would
have
booked
a
quarterfinal
berth
for
therm.
And,
it
was
not
something
which
they
could
not
have
done.
The
Indian
team
had
beaten
Chinese
Taipei
1-0
in
an
international
friendly
in
October
last.

A
second-place
finish
in
the
group
would
have
set
up
Thomas
Dennerby’s
side
against
middle-rung
sides
like
Philippines
in
the
quarterfinals
and
avoided
the
top-rated
teams
like
Japan,
Australia,
Korea
and
China.

The
Indian
team
had
been
one
of
the
most
well-prepared
in
the
tournament.
Since
early
last
year,
the
Indian
team
had
played
international
matches
in
Turkey,
Uzbekistan,
UAE,
Bahrain
and
Brazil.

All
India
Football
Federation
President
Praful
Patel
had
said
that
no
bio-bubble
is
foolproof
against
COVID-19
though
there
are
some
officials
who
felt
the
tournament
could
have
been
postponed
for
two
or
three
months
and
by
that
time
the
pandemic’s
third
wave
would
have
weakened
in
India.

Another
AIFF
official
said
the
federation
had
done
everything
it
could
have
in
terms
of
safety
measures.
“These
players
are
from
humble
backgrounds
and
not
high
profile
sportspersons.
They
are
not
the
type
who
do
not
follow
instructions.
They
followed
the
protocols
to
the
‘T’.

“But
somehow
COVID-19
could
breach
the
bio-bubble.
It
is
sheer
bad
luck
and
unfortunate.
People
are
talking
what
could
have
been
done,
what
could
not
have
been
done
with
the
benefit
of
hindsight.”

The
tournament
was
held
under
strict
health
and
safety
protocols
in
view
of
the
surge
in
COVID-19
cases
in
India
and
Maharashtra.
All
the
teams,
who
have
been
put
up
in
separate
hotels,
were
tested
on
arrival
and
they
were
not
allowed
outside
their
hotels

which
served
as
bio-bubbles

till
the
reports
came
in.

After
that,
each
team
was
also
tested
every
72
hours.
Two
members
of
the
Indian
team
first
tested
positive
for
the
virus
on
January
19.
The
home
team
underwent
another
round
of
tests
on
Friday
and
12
players
returned
positive
on
Sunday.

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