India football team coach Stephen Constantine has branded the decision of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to not send men’s and women’s sides to the 2018 Asian Games as "appalling".
As reported by The Statesman, the IOA decided not to send the teams to the Games, scheduled to take place in Indonesian cities Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2, as they could not meet the qualifying criteria set by the national Olympic body.
They did qualify, however, as per the norms of the Olympic Council of Asia.
Speaking to reporters prior to the national camp for the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka in September, Constantine slammed the decision.
"I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am [with the decision]," the Englishman, who begun his second spell in charge of India in February 2015, said.
"I think it’s appalling.
"It is based upon results of the previous Asian Games which comes once every four years.
"We are not the team we were four or eight years ago.
"I think it did us harm because I felt that we would have had a good chance to qualify from the group.
"It’s more games for these players...more big games."
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Constantine had been looking to use the Asian Games as part of preparation for next year’s Asian Cup finals.
India, who under Constantine have climbed from 173 to 97 in the FIFA world rankings, will be competing in the SAFF Championship for only the third time and the first time since 2011.
The Hindustan Times reports that the SAFF Championship squad has an exposure trip of Australia scheduled before that tournament.
"The tour of Australia had already been planned keeping in mind the Asian Games," Constantine added.
"We had thought the boys will train and play practice matches there and travel to Jakarta from Australia.
"But now that we are not going to the Asian Games, we will treat it just as an exposure trip.
"By the way, we still have not received an official word that we are not going to the Asian Games.
"I am very disappointed.
"It is a decision that will hurt football."
Earlier this month, IOA President Narinder Batra defended the decision, which the AIFF described as "myopic".
He also justified the decision to include lesser-known sports such as pencak silat, an indigenous martial art.
"It is not that we personally like those sports and have included them," Batra told the Press Trust of India.
"They have been winning medals and are expected to win at the Asian Games too.
"There were another five to six lesser-known sports besides pencak silat, but we did not include them because they were not potential medal winners."