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AFC Women's Asian Cup

India head coach Thomas Dennerby questions the efficacy of AFC Women's Asian Cup bio-bubble

12:50 PM IST 26/01/22
Thomas Dennerby Indian women's national team
India had to withdraw from the tournament after several players got infected with Covid-19...

Thomas Dennerby, the head coach of the Indian women's team, has expressed his disappointment at the state of affairs that led to his troops withdrawing from the ongoing Women's Asian Cup after a Covid-19 break out in the squad. India could not name 13 players for the match against Chinese Taipei and according to AFC provisions, all matches of India were declared as null & void.

What did Thomas Dennerby say?

"The bio-bubble was maintained by AFC. All India players had tested negative for Covid-19 when they entered. AFC were not professional in handling the bubble. Seven hotel staff tested Covid-19 positive on January 18. All of them were in touch with us, serving, cleaning our rooms. Why were hotel staff not tested every third day? I think it was an unprofessional way to handle inside the bubble. What hurts me is AFC trying to blame us (Team India)," he said.

"Now we hear that two AFC staff were infected. The biggest problem is AFC was not at all interested in having a discussion. Seven hotel staff were COVID positive including chefs, housekeeping, service... AFC held back their results for a whole day.

"On 16th, we had a good session, and later, we were tested again after three days. At that time, the first case of positive Covid-19 resulted was detected. That means that the first case happened the same day we came out from quarantine. How?

"On the 18th we had our afternoon session. In the evening we were tested again pre-match testing. Three new cases of positive Covid-19 were detected. Our physiotherapist, strength and conditioning coach, and one player positive," he revealed.

The Indian team are still in isolation and maintaining hard quarantine as 19 Indian players and six staff are currently infected with Covid-19.

After India crashed out of the marquee competition several players had expressed their disappointment on social media. Dennerby also echoed their thoughts.

"Me and my team are devastated, our dreams are forever killed. We are isolated in our rooms. I cannot even have an interaction with the heartbroken girls. It's a tough situation mentally for all of us. Why wasn't the match against Chinese Taipei cancelled earlier when they knew about just 11 players available at least seven-and-half-hours before kick-off." said the Swedish coach.

'AFC did not give us a chance'

Dennerby also informed that the AIFF (All India Football Federation) gave their all and even tried to replace the Covid-19 affected players with U-17 players, but the AFC did not give in.

"I have read all the emails that came to our federation from AFC. If you read it, you can say they don't even open the door to see if something can be done. What was most painful was the lack of solution-oriented dialogue.

"Telling them the news was the most painful part. You want it to be decided on the pitch. We didn't even get a chance, it was not even a discussion. Could we bring some players in, the U-17 team was in another bubble? The federation tried everything," he stated.

Since India have already withdrawn from this edition of the Women's Asian Cup, which was also serving as the final stage of the Asian qualification for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, they have no chance of qualifying for the global event that will be held in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.